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!

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.

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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.

‘Meatout Monday’ Potluck Rings in Spring

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In conjunction with other groups across the world who organize “Meatout” events to mark March 20 – the first day of Spring – the Kanawha Valley Vegan Potluck Group invites the public to their own “Meatout Monday” Potluck from 5:30-7:15 tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 520 Kanawha Blvd. West in Charleston.

The event is designed to provide guests an opportunity to sample a variety of vegan dishes while learning about the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Members of the group will share their personal stories and all are encouraged to swap recipes.

Live music will be provided by Minnesota Riot Grrrrl Folk Collective member Shannon Murray, who blends self-penned songs on the struggles for existence with traditional labor and folk covers. Green smoothie samples will be provided, and guests also will have a chance to win $10 gift certificates donated by Bluegrass Kitchen, Healthy Life Market, Mission Savvy, Starling’s Coffee and Provisions and Tricky Fish!

There is no cost to attend, but an offering will be collected to help cover use of the building and entertainment. For more information on the international movement, visit www.meatout.org.

Want to attend, but not sure what to bring? The group recommends checking out these websites for last-minute vegan recipes and ideas:

Local Mac & Cheese Cook-off Now World Qualifier

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As if Charleston’s second-annual Mac & Cheese Cook-off weren’t exciting enough, there’s an even bigger reason you won’t want to miss this year’s event …

Coordinator Rachel Scudiere recently learned the local cook-off has been selected to be a qualifier for the “World Food Championships” competition in Florida this November.

That’s big news, y’all!

As a result, Scudiere is extending the registration deadline for those who would like to participate until next Wednesday, March 18.

This year’s event takes place Saturday, March 28, at Charleston’s Capital Market. For more information, check out my previous story at http://bit.ly/1zO0hnT or visit www.childhoodlanguagecenter.org.

“Eat a Ridiculous Amount of Food” Sunday is Here!

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How can the biggest football game in the world be so Super if action on the field is constantly overshadowed by food and commercials?

Beats me, but Super Bowl Sunday is here – so belly up to the buffet!

Taste of Home says Americans spent more than $1 billion on food during last year’s game, making it the second-most popular holiday for eating, trailing only Thanksgiving.

Wow.

Research shows fans will devour about 1.25 billion wings and 11 million pounds of potato chips tonight alone. They also say you could fill a football field almost 12 feet deep with the amount of guacamole that will be consumed during the game – a fact that is both unbelievable and gross.

So whether you watch while dipping into the salsa or diving into a platter of wings or pot of chili, you’re in good company.

Super Bowl Sunday is always a big day for pizza delivery, but you can intercept that looooooong wait for a slice by making your own at home. Here are two recipes from Kontos for inspiration …

 

Ffour-cheese margherita pizzaour-Cheese Margherita Pizza

one ready-made pizza crust

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ tablespoon fresh minced garlic

dash of sea salt

8-9 slices of small Roma tomatoes

3 oz. shredded whole milk (artisan) mozzarella

2 oz. Fontina cheese

1 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 oz. Feta cheese

4 fresh basil leaves washed, dried and julienne sliced (strips)

  1. Preheat oven to 400⁰ F (375⁰ for a convection oven)
  2. Stir together the olive oil, garlic, salt and tomatoes and let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Brush the crust with the tomato marinade (leave tomatoes in the bowl).
  4. Arrange tomato slices over the top of the crust.
  5. Spread Mozzarella and Fontina shredded cheese evenly over top of tomato slices; top evenly with shredded Parmesan cheese, Feta cheese and sliced basil leaves.
  6. Place topped pizza into the oven, directly on rack for crispy crust, on a pan for soft crust.
  7. Bake for approx. 5 minutes (a few minutes less for convection oven); remove from oven with a baking sheet or pizza spatula.
  8. Let cool for 1-2 minutes. Slice into 4-6 slices and enjoy!

 

veggie lover's pizzaVeggie Lovers Pizza

One ready-made pizza crust

3 oz. tomato pizza sauce

4 oz. whole milk Mozzarella (artisan) cheese

1 ½ oz. sliced red onions

1 ½ oz. sliced black olives

1 ½ oz. total (½ oz of each) diced red, green and yellow bell peppers

  1. Preheat oven to 400⁰ F (375⁰ for a convection oven).
  2. Evenly spread the tomato pizza sauce over crust.
  3. Evenly spread the Mozzarella cheese over the top of the pizza sauce.
  4. Top with the bell pepper mixture, black olives and sliced red onions.
  5. Place topped pizza into the oven, directly on rack for crispy crust, on a pan for soft crust.
  6. Bake for approx. 5 minutes, or a minute or two less in a convection oven; remove from oven with a baking sheet or pizza spatula.
  7. Let cool for 1-2 minutes, slice into 4-6 slices and enjoy!

 

Cooking tip: Oven baking times can vary. Flatbread pizza is ready when the cheese is melted completely and edges are medium to dark brown.

Meet ‘n’ Greet a Celebrity ‘Shiner

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Don’t expect free-flowing samples to be passed around, but here’s your chance to meet and greet celebrity moonshiner Jim Tom Hedrick …

Jim Tom HedrickThe TV personality will be in Marmet and Beckley this Wednesday to promote the release of his signature unaged rye, the first in series of “Legends” moonshines to be produced by Sugarlands Distilling Company in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The partnership with Sugarlands marks Jim Tom’s pursuit of going “legal” to make his brand of ‘shine available to the public for the first time.

Jim Tom with be on hand to sign autographs at King Cut Rate Liquor (9913 MacCorkle Ave.) in Marmet from noon to 2 p.m. Sept. 10, then at CJ’s Liquor (2152 Harper Rd.) in Beckley from 3-5 p.m. later that same day.

Both events are free and open to the public.

 

Vandalia Gathering Hosting a Sweet Bake-off

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Ready to get your cupcake on?

The folks putting on this weekend’s awesome annual Vandalia Gathering on the State Capitol Grounds in Charleston are inviting West Virginia residents to enter a “Cupcake & Pound Cake” bakeoff as part of this year’s event.

A celebration of Appalachian heritage featuring food, music, dance, crafts and more, the Vandalia Gathering draws big crowds of fans who love to enjoy everything “Wild and Wonderful” about our great state. This year’s baking competition will take place inside the Culture Center State Theater this Saturday, May 24. Registration is from noon to 1:30 pm and tasting/judging begins at 2 pm, with winners announced shortly thereafter.

Entries must be original recipes made from scratch, with no prepared mixes allowed. Judges will disqualify previ­ously published recipes, such as those in cookbooks and in magazines, from food companies, on food websites and cooking-contest winners, unless the recipe features changes considered significant by the judges. Entries must be submitted in disposable pans/liners, with no refrigeration required. The recipe used also must be included on a 3×5” index card.

Creativity is essential and this contest is not limited to traditional cupcake and pound cake flavors. Judges will look for a variety of fillings and textures.

Entries may score a possible 100 points, with 30 for taste/flavor, 25 appearance, 15 consistency in size/shape, 20 moistness/crumb and 10 for creativity. First place wins $75, second gets $50 and $25 will go to both the third-place winner and the top entry among youth ages 15 and under.

All cupcakes and pound cakes become the property of the Division of Culture and History and will be offered as prizes during a cake walk in the Great Hall at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to join the dancing!

Although I was asked to help pick this year’s winners, sadly, I’ll be out of town this weekend and can’t make it. #bummer

For complete rules or more information, contact the West Virginia Division of Culture and History at (304) 558-0220 or visit www.wvculture.org.