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

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.

 

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!

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.”

Stonewall Resort Chef Competing in U.S. Cook-Off

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In hot news on the state culinary beat, Stonewall Executive Chef Tim White has been selected as one of 11 finalists to compete in the U.S. Copper Skillet Cook-off Competition in Chicago this week.

Stonewall Resort lamb dishWhat got him there was his recipe for Grilled Rack of Mountain State Lamb with Potato and Parsnip Puree, Minted Peas with Spinach, Butter-Braised Baby Carrots and Red Wine Reduction, which he’ll prepare for a panel of judges in the Windy City tomorrow in hopes of bringing home top honors.

“The sweetness from the parsnips and carrots plays well against the richness of the lamb and bitter tones of the spinach,” White said, “and the mint is a classic pairing with lamb.”

Although the dish isn’t currently offered at the resort’s restaurants, a variation of it does appear on conference menus.

Competing in the “Senior Chef” category, White will also have to use ingredients from a mystery basket plus select pantry items to prepare a dish that would be typical at a conference center like Stonewall.

A panel of judges will select one winner, who will then go on to compete at Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, FL, with that winner returning next April to compete in the Global Finals.

Go, Tim, go!

 

Chef Tim White

It’s the First (Fancy) Ramp Dinner of Spring

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Ready for the first ramp dinner of the season?

And a fancy one at that! 

Celebrated West Virginia Chef Dale Hawkins will treat guests to “A Fancy Ramp Dinner: Celebrating Spring Tonics in Appalachia” at 6 pm Saturday, March 29, at Mountain View Event Center in Buckhannon.

The evening will begin with a welcome beverage and ramp queso with corn tortillas, plus a cash bar available as well. Once the dinner begins, you’ll hear from the people who have grown, caught, raised, foraged and crafted the items featured in each dish.

Dishes like: 

  • Buttermilk, Ramp and Bacon Biscuits 
  • Artisan Breads from Jeff Kessler 
  • Bad Ass Beet Salad with Orange Segments and Pea Tendrils 
  • Wilted Spinach Salad with Bacon and Wild Leek Vinaigrette, Pickled Red Onions, Farm Eggs and Mushrooms 
  • Gardner Farm Chicken Braised in White Wine and Caramelized Ramps 
  • Gingered Beef Flank Steak with Buttery Mashed Potatoes and Fresh Asparagus 
  • Apple Dumplings with Caramel Sauce and Ellen’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
  • Iced Sassafras Tea and Mountain Roaster Coffee 

Dinner will be served buffet-style, and vegetarian options will be noted. The cost is $35 per person and tickets must be purchased in advance. Email chefhawkins@gmail.com or call 304-704-2535. 

All profits benefit the New Appalachian Farm & Research Center A 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to support the agricultural community’s efforts of supporting a local food system for West Virginia.

Charleston “Restaurant Week” Menus Announced!

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For those of you salivating over what choices you’ll have during Charleston’s upcoming “Restaurant Week,” I’m going to put you out of your misery. The menus have been announced! 

In case you missed the big news, Buzz Food Service has recruited eight top-notch local restaurants to participate in this year’s inaugural event, coming up Jan. 27-Feb. 1. 

Get the original scoop at http://bit.ly/KxGgjH, then check out the eight featured menus below …

 

BLUEGRASS KITCHEN (1600 Washington St. East, 304-346-2871)

First course:

* Simple salad or cup of soup du jour

Entrée:

* Pan-seared whole trout with organic stoneground grits, stewed kale and bourbon mustard sauce.

Dessert, choice of:

* Any available dessert.

 

BRIDGE ROAD BISTRO (915 Bridge Road, 304-720-3500)

First course, choice of:

* Cup of French Onion Soup

* House Salad

Entrée, choice of:

* Grecian Chicken Penne Pasta

* Apple Cured Pork Chop with fig and apple glaze with polenta and house vegetable

* Seared Salmon with polenta and house vegetable

Dessert, choice of:

* Bread Pudding

* Ice Cream

 

ICHIBAN (103 Capitol St., 304-720-7874)

First course, choice of:

* Gyoza (steamed pork dumpling)

* Almost Heaven Maki (shrimp and blue crab with spicy mayo, garnished with green onions and chili powder)

Entrée, choice of:

* Ichiban Land & Sea (filet with scallops drizzled with Asian sauce served with asparagus and choice of steamed or fried rice)

* Bamboo Chicken sautéed in General Tso’s sauce with choice of steamed or fried rice.

Dessert:

* Decadent Chocolate Spoon Cake.

 

NOAH’S ECLECTRIC BISTRO (110 McFarland St., 304-343-6558)

First course, choice of:

* Grilled Romaine Salad: Lightly grilled romaine, peppercorn dressing, grape tomato and shaved parmesan

* Soup of the Day: Chef’s Daily Creation

Entrée, choice of:

* Moroccan Spiced Braised Lamb: Tender braised leg of lamb with chickpeas, apricots, golden raisins, cous cous and mint yogurt

* Shrimp or Chicken Pad Thai: Bean sprouts, julienne vegetables, fried egg, rice noodles, peanuts, cilantro, coconut-peanut sauce

Dessert, choice of:

* Chocolate Lava Cake

* Vanilla Ice Cream with fresh berries

 

PATERNO’S AT THE PARK (601 Morris St., 304-205-5482)

First course, choice of:

* House-made meatball over polenta cake

* Italian Sausage Stuffed Pepper

Entrée, choice of:

* basil chicken (pan seared bone-in chicken breast with a basil marsala cream), tomato risotto and seasonal vegetable

* veal cutlet picatta (pounded veal tenderloin with a lemon and caper butter sauce), parmesan risotto and seasonal vegetable

Dessert:

* Cannoli chips

 

SOHO’S CAPITOL MARKET (800 Smith St., 304-720-7646)

First course, choice of:

* Caprese Salad

* Minestrone

Entrée, choice of:

* Lasagna

* Four-cheese ravioli with tomato basil

Dessert, choice of:

* Tiramisu

* Cannoli

 

SOUTH HILLS MARKET AND CAFÉ (1010 Bridge Road, 304-345-2585)

First course, choice of:

* Spanakopita Dip with Smoked Tomato Relish and Pita

* Garden Greens with choice of Dressing

* Braised Pork Belly with Succotash and Caramel Soy

Entrée, choice of:

* Chicken and Waffles with Braised Greens and Pecan Gastrique

* Pan Seared Grouper with Braised Leeks and Fennel with Saffron Beurre Blanc

* Grilled Petite Filet with whipped Potatoes and Vegetable Melange with Bordelaise

Dessert, choice of:

* Petite Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce

* Creme Brûlée with Berry compote

 

VANDALIA GRILLE (212 Hale St., 304-343-4110)

First course, choice of:

* Tuna Nachos

* Bruschetta

Entrée, choice of:

* Cedar Plank Salmon

* Vandalia Filet

Dessert:

* Fried Cheesecake

Chef Brown … You’ve Been Chopped!

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If you read my column in today’s Daily Mail, you know I spent last night enjoying a fantastic night of wine, food, music and friends at Edgewood Country Club.

It was everything I expected in a nice evening out and more – and yet another feather in Festivall’s cap.

But what you don’t know is who won Charleston’s first-ever Edgewood Become a Work of Art “Chopped”-style culinary throwdown, in which two amateur chefs (and their teams) competed against one another to prepare two different dishes for four judges using a “mystery box” of ingredients revealed just 15 minutes before the stoves were fired up.

So who won? Oh, we’ll get to that.

First things first. What an AWESOME evening!

Held on Edgewood Country Club’s patio overlooking the city of Charleston, more than a hundred guests mingled – listening to the awesome “Fort Hillbillies” band, socializing with friends, sipping wine – while two culinary teams battled it out over a hot grill. Local “Wine Boy” John Brown and Charleston doctor Stefan Maxwell led their teams to create a menu featuring at least three ingredients from the mystery box (actually a coffin-sized cooler) presented to them right as the competition began.

Among their choices … sea bass, ahi tuna, ribeye and a selection of fresh produce, herbs, grains and full use of Chef Jeremy Still’s Edgewood Country Club pantry.

I immediately started plotting what I would make under the circumstances, but my ideas differed from what these fast-thinkers came up with on the fly. Chef Maxwell crafted a menu of a fire-grilled Caribbean Angus rib-eye roast with a rum-infused jerk reduction over warm potato salad. He paired that with a cored curried apple stuffed with goat cheese, figs and warm berry compote.

I loved the interplay of heat and sweat in his dish, but my steak was definitely overcooked compared to the plates I saw fellow judges enjoying on the left and right. Ah, consistency. But that sweet-savory-fruity apple dessert was one of the most ingenious, delicious I’ve had.

Chef Brown’s team offered a summer salad medley – a single plate featuring small tastes of crab Louis, grilled asparagus and a Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and julienned basil. Those are three dishes I love individually, but never would’ve thought to pair them together on the same plate. But why not?

The Brown team’s main course featured a Southwest-seared rib-eye, grilled broccolini and a farrow-stuffed grilled pepper. I dream of broccolini and farrow, so this was a winner in my book. The steak was cooked nicely, too, so there was little to find fault with here.

But that’s what judges do, so we filled out our scorecards to name an ultimate winner. And in the spirit of the show that inspired it … “Chef Brown, you’ve been Chopped!”

Chef Maxwell’s Caribbean-inspired menu won by the narrowest of margins, just 1.3 points out of a possible 60. So very close.

No matter, it was an awesome night – and yet another reason why West Virginia, Charleston and Festivall will forever hold a special place in my heart. (And belly.)

Enjoy a Gourmet Feast in a Gorgeous Farm Setting

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If you love great locally sourced food, fine wine and good company – all enjoyed against a backdrop of sweeping views of West Virginia’s rolling farmland – have I got an event for you!

Tickets are still available for the June 10 “Friends of Food” gourmet farm feast at beautiful Swift Level Farm in Lewisburg. Join other diehard “foodies” (and me!) as we celebrate West Virginia’s culinary heritage and local farm products for an unforgettable evening at one of the most beautiful and idyllic settings in the state.

Some of our region’s finest chefs will team up to serve a “New Appalachian” feast paired with featured wines from the Wine Shop at Capitol Market.

Cocktails will start at 6:30 pm, with dinner served at 7:30 pm. Seating will be in tables of eight, and tickets are $100 per person.

You can order yours now – and take a look at the entire mouthwatering menu – here:

http://castironcookoff.com/Friends-of-Food-at-Swift-Level-fof.htm

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s efforts to honor local employees, restaurants, businesses and hotels in conjunction with National Tourism Week.

After weeks of the public nominating – and then voting on – their favorites in a variety of categories, winners are being announced TONIGHT during a reception at the Charleston Civic Center!

In the food-related categories, honors go to …

  • Favorite Restaurant – Pies & Pints
  • Favorite Specialty Drink – Sangria, Lola’s
  • Favorite Food Dish – Black Bean Pie, Pies & Pints
  • Best Restaurant Employee – Dana Mindrescu, Marriott
  • Best Frontline Ambassador – Aaron Clark, Bridge Road Bistro

Congrats to all!

Vote Now for the Best Fish Sandwich in Town!

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Hey Charleston peeps …

Lent season is upon us and we’re looking for the best fish sandwiches in town!

Does your local hangout do it better than the rest? And if so, what makes it so — the fish itself, the bun, the sauce? Inquiring minds want to know.

Vote here for your favorite place for fish: http://bit.ly/WHdIHJ. Then follow the Charleston Daily Mail and this Food Guy blog for all of the tasty results.