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

When to Buy that Delicious Big Bird

When you’re ready to head to the store to buy your big bird, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan on about 1-2 pounds of turkey per person. (Just depends on how many leftovers you want to enjoy and/or deal with!)
  • If you’re cooking a fresh turkey, allow only 1 or 2 days between buying and roasting it. Be sure to store it in the refrigerator on a tray or pan to catch any juices that may leak out. And don’t worry if your “fresh” turkey seems a little on the frozen side. By law, even fresh ones have to be kept no warmer than 30 degrees.
  • Avoid prestuffed turkeys, as harmful bacteria may be in the stuffing.

And if you go down the frozen route, here are two ways to safely thaw that beast:

  • In the refrigerator in the original wrapper – Allow approximately 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.
  • In cold water – Submerge it in cold water, allowing about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. But be sure to change the water every 30 minutes, and cook the bird immediately after thawing. (Do not refreeze!)

Drinking for a Good Cause

If you’re gonna drink this holiday season, you might as well do it for a cause …

Gallo Family Vineyards has joined up with Meals on Wheels of America to raise awareness for hunger relief by offering a way for people to help feed American seniors and families in need – all while celebrating with their own friends and loved ones.

Between now and the end of the year, Gallo Family Vineyards will donate $5 to Meals on Wheels for every Gallo wine cork sent in. The company’s goal is to raise $25,000 by Dec. 31. That’s 5,000 corks, so get to sippin’!!

Corks should be mailed to Corks to Fight Hunger Donation, P.O. Box 1154, Grand Rapids, MN 55745-1154. Visit www.everycorkcounts.com to learn more.

‘Tis the Season … for Eating!

As I mentioned in this week’s column (http://charlestondailymail.com/foodandliving/TheFoodGuy/201011100361) the holidays are a great time for family gatherings, heartfelt gift-giving and, especially, overeating. With office parties and tailgates and potlucks – oh my! – even the most vigilant of calorie-counters can lose their way.

Fortunately, you can adopt a few easy habits to help limit the damage:

  • Eat a substantial snack before going to a dinner party. I know eating before eating may not sound like a sound diet strategy, but it’s the same advice behind the concept of not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
  • Cut calories wherever possible. For example, replace regular cream cheese with the reduced-fat variety and you can shave more than 2,000 calories and 120 grams of fat from a typical cheesecake.
  • Give seconds a second thought. Wait 10 minutes before having a second helping. The delay can help keep you from eating too much before your stomach realizes it’s full.

So enjoy the holidays, just don’t ring in the new year with a Santa-sized midsection.

A Holiday Cooking Hotline to Save the Day

The holiday season is here, and if you’re looking for a great resource to find fresh ideas for at-home entertaining, Turning Leaf Wines is offering a toll-free hotline to save the day.

At 877-TLWINE-3 (or 877-859-4633), you’ll hear automated tips offering instant entertaining advice from experts on everything from how to pair wine with your meal to what to do when 20 people RSVP to your dinner party when your table only seats 10. They’ll even suggest ways to incorporate prepared foods with your own to help ease the stress of entertaining.

And from 2-8 p.m. on Nov. 20-22, during that crucial weekend before Thanksgiving, the hotline will feature live access to a trio of experts including Turning Leaf winemaker Nicole Hitchcock, lifestyle and entertaining expert Robyn Moreno, and wine expert Maureen Petrosky. They’ll be available to answer questions about wine pairings, menu ideas and even what to do with your leftovers.

The hotline is open 24 hours a day through Dec. 31.

Here’s a toast to great West Virginia tastes

Last night’s tag-team Ambler Spirits/Bridge Road Bistro tasting was a blast, most notably because it showcased some mighty fine West Virginia food and drink.

As the evening started, guests were offered their choice of special cocktails: a “Candy Apple Vodka” (nicely light and sweet) or a “Cucumber Gin” made with fresh cucumber puree and a touch of simple syrup. Both were tasty.

Next came shots of Smooth Ambler vodka, and later gin, each paired with a trio of bite-size appetizers. I enjoyed the Georgia Caviar (from across the waters, not from the Peach State) and really liked the New Potato with Caraway Seed and a delicious Smoked Trout with Apple Relish.

Both spirits were good, too. I’ve tried Ambler’s vodka before, so I was really taken with the gin — something I’ve seldom tried. What a nice blending of herby, slightly floral and piney notes with a smooth finish!

Before the evening started, Smooth Ambler owner Tag Galyean shared a little history about his new distillery and announced the small-batch spirits being produced there are already scoring among the highest brands in tasting competitions. And they’re all made right here in the Mountain State. Love that.

Nothing to Whine About at Expanded Wine Shop

So I finally had a chance to check out the newly located (and larger!) Wine Shop at Capitol Market. Since moving down the hall to the space formerly occupied by Perdue’s, the shop has been able to rearrange and, more importantly, expand its offerings. There’s now room for more craft beers, more imported cheeses and, of course, more wine. The most exciting change for me, is the addition of a special climate-controlled room that houses a nice collection of premium wines. Not that I’ll be a frequent purchaser of these pricier bottles, but it makes me happy knowing they’re being well taken care of.

And the service is still great. After years ago proclaiming a Rust en Vrede Stellenbosch one of the best red wines I’ve ever had — and recently going ga-ga over a Rustenberg Chardonnay — I’m pretty much ready to declare South African wines the best in the world. (And that’s a big statement coming from this French and California-loving wineaux.) When I asked owner Ted Armbrecht for something similar, he directed me to a few bottles of Pinotage, the wine that put South Africa on the map. My favorite was the Wildekrans Estate Pinotage from the Walker Bay area. At $17.99, it was worth every penny.

Just like walking into a room in your house after the furniture has been rearranged, browsing through the new Wine Shop takes a few minutes to get used to. You have to re-learn where things are and the new lay of the land. But that’s a small price to pay for progress. And pampered bottles.

*  *  *

Speaking of libations, I’ll be heading down to Bridge Road Bistro tonight for a special vodka and gin tasting featuring Smooth Ambler spirits paired with some of the Bistro’s tasty morsels. (Check out the full story here: http://charlestondailymail.com/foodandliving/TheFoodGuy/201010261236). I’ll post all the juicy details after the event tonight or tomorrow morning. Or tomorrow afternoon, depending on just how potent these potables turn out to be!

Welcome to the new “Food Guy” food blog!

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to the new “Food Guy” food blog!

If you’ve followed my weekly food column in the Charleston Daily Mail for the past 10 or so years, you already know I’m pretty obsessed with cooking, recipes, restaurants, wine — pretty much anything food-related. Or maybe I just like to eat. Either way, I figure I’m not alone, so I hope you’ll check back here often so we can share our love of all things yummy together. I’ll still be writing my weekly column for the newspaper, but this here blog is where I’ll start sharing cooking tips, restaurant updates, new food finds, random rants and more on a more frequent basis. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say, too.

So welcome, food friends! And let the discussion begin!!