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

Bloomery’s Sweetshine … Oh, So, Fine!

For the second time in as many years, a West Virginia craft distillery has been named a winner in the prestigious Good Food Awards. Bloomery Sweetshine in Charles Town (formerly Bloomery Plantation Distillery) won in the spirits category for its Pumpkin Spice Shine.

Bloomery Sweetshine
Bloomery Sweetshine

They join 145 other winners nationwide honored for the responsible and sustainable production of high-quality American craft food and drink in multiple categories.

Winners, representing 33 different states, were selected from nearly 1,500 entries nationwide after a rigorous blind taste test among 182 judges.

Bloomery’s West Virginia-made shine shared top honors with other spirits like organic pear brandy from Colorado, wild elderberry and quince fruit liqueurs from California, and lemon-ginger and hibiscus-lavender syrups from Oregon.

Smooth Ambler Spirits near Lewisburg was similarly honored for its small-batch gin last year.

‘Pig of the Month’ Discount for Food Guy Fans!

After I shared my love of the awesome Pig of the Month Club in Wednesday’s Daily Mail, the good folks there contacted me with a special offer we can all take advantage of in time for Easter …

Readers who order online at www.pigofthemonth.com can receive 15% off their purchases by using the coupon code FEEDME, plus all packages are 25% off now through the weekend with the code LOVEBACON.

And what’s the only thing better than good pork? Less-expensive good pork.

If you missed my “Ode to Swine,” you can check it out here.

Vote Now for the Best Fish Sandwich in Town!

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.

Biting into the Governor’s Homegrown Tomato

So I had this tomato.

Not just any tomato, but a GINORMOUS one.

Tomblin's tomato
Tomblin’s tomato

And not just any ginormous one, but one homegrown and hand-picked by the governor himself.

As West Virginia’s Earl Ray Tomblin gave me a tour of his Governor’s Mansion garden recently (check out the full story here), we were marveling at the height of the tomato stalks rising before us. Then he reaches over and picks one to give us a closer look at some of the bounty he’s been enjoying on the dinner table this summer.

This thing was a beauty! Plump, red and nearly bursting at the seams.

I felt a little guilty when he offered it to me, but snatched it from his hands nonetheless. Journalistic ethics be damned.

Then it sat in my kitchen a few days while I debated how to make the most of it. It seemed wasteful to chop it up into a sauce, bury it on a sandwich or toss it into a salad where its righteousness would be compromised by the ingredients alongside it.

So that left me with only one choice. I bit into that beast like an apple, letting its juices drip down my chin.

Then I sprinkled on a bit of salt and did the exact same thing again and again.

Wild & Wonderful!

A stroll through the governor's garden
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin takes The Food Guy on a stroll through his garden.

Food Network Got it Right. Cam’s Ham is Da’Bomb!

The latest issue of Food Network Magazine names the Sugar-Flaked Ham Sandwich at Huntington’s Cam’s Ham the single must-try sandwich in West Virginia.

There are probably a handful of state sammiches I’d put on said list, but Cam’s is SO one of them.

Growing up in Huntington I often indulged in this piled-high plate of perfection, and still manage to sneak one in from time to time when I go back for a visit.

Cam’s has always been an institution in the Tri-State Area, but it would be hard for most to understand why. The restaurant itself is in an out-of-the-way location (between downtown and the west end) and the building itself is pretty non-descript, borderline past its prime.

But inside, regulars gather for filling sandwiches, plate lunches, ice cream treats … and a mighty fine sandwich.

Regarding the Sugar-Flaked Ham Sandwich, editors wrote: “Ninety percent of orders here are for this sandwich, piled with shaved sweet ham and a tangy sauce.” And at just $2.75-$3.50, it’s a steal.

It joins 49 other notables in the feature “50 Sandwiches, 50 States,” available on newsstands now and at http://bit.ly/Qb9q3b.

For the magazine’s annual survey of the best dishes across the country, editors spent six months scouring the country for the most delicious sandwich in every state. They learned two things along the way:

“One, you can put pretty much anything between bread; and two, almost everything tastes better that way. We considered sandwiches of all kinds — hot, cold, round, square, tall, pressed, wrapped, meaty, cheesy — and narrowed down our list of favorites to a single must-try sandwich in each state.”

Cam’s Ham is located at 809 First St. in Huntington. Call 304-522-7012 for more information.

These Easter Goodies Better Than Good

There’s a place to get really fantastic West Virginia-made chocolates right here in town – let’s hear it for Holl’s! – but it’s always nice to try out foods from other places.

One of the perks of being a hope-to-someday-be-famous food writer is that companies often send you their products in the hopes that you’ll sample, savor and spread the word about them.

That’s exactly what happened with renowned Pittsburgh chocolatier Edward Marc, who sent me a case of their Easter goodies to nosh on. We broke into them today and were really impressed with everything we tasted.

Featuring top-quality ingredients from across the globe, the Vanilla Salt Caramels, filled chocolate eggs (loved the mocha, peanut butter and nut meltaway) and dark chocolate bunnies were so fine. You can check them out, and order your own, at www.edwardmarc.com.

A few weeks ago, we also sunk our teeth into some fantastic gourmet cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, with locations in New York and Washington, DC. Almost too pretty to eat (almost!) we enjoyed both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, but especially the red velvet and carrot cake options. A mound decadently rich buttercream (in deceptively light pastel colors) topped each one.

Delish. You can browse or buy at www.georgetowncupcake.com.

Wheeling Pizza Named Among Best in Nation

Several years ago I was asked to be a contributor for a new book capturing the nation’s fascination with pizza. In “Everybody Loves Pizza: The Deep Dish on America’s Favorite Food” (http://amzn.to/GALogn), I also recommended the top spots in West Virginia to get a truly amazing pie.

That research took me to some tasty places statewide, including the original DiCarlo’s in Wheeling, where I inhaled an ethereal slice (or was it three?) of the restaurant’s remarkably simple pizza. It’s a tiny place that looks like any other run-of-the-mill pizza counter, but the works of art coming out of the oven here were masterpieces.

Looks like other foodies have taken notice as well.

In an article touting America’s best pizza joints in last week’s Parade magazine, DiCarlo’s made the Top 10 list of “runners-up” nationwide. In making the designation, the article said …

“The unique pies at DiCarlo’s feature a tomato-glazed crust that is flash-baked with minimal cheese, then pulled from the oven and topped with shredded provolone and, if desired, pepperoni discs and peppers.

Yum.

Not-So-Sweet News: Not All Chocolate Good. GASP!

If you’re planning to buy chocolates for someone special on Valentine’s Day – and aren’t we all? – the folks at Consumer Reports suggest you purchase wisely.

Based on the results of recent testings, editors learned two important things:

  1. All chocolates are not created equally.
  2. Higher price does not always indicate better quality.

Big names like Hershey’s, Russell Stover and Whitman’s were deemed “merely so-so.” Even Lindt, perceived as a gourmet brand, only received a “good” rating.

The good news is they found 12 excellent (though pricey) chocolates they described as “ultra-smooth.” Among those recommended are, in order of taste, Norman Love Confections Signature Gift Box, Woodhouse Assortment, Christopher Elbow  and Candinas.

But the bad new is, most are only available online.

If you’re looking for something you may be able to find in local stores, Godiva’s Gold Ballotin earned praise for a good selection.

But your best bet – and my VERY STRONG RECOMMENDATION – is that you check out Holl’s at Capitol Market. Those wonderful, West Virginia-made Swiss-style chocolates are divine.

Check them out at www.holls.com.

As for the Consumer Reports test, full ratings are available at www.consumerreports.org.

New Krispy Kreme App: So Good, But So Very Bad

For those of you who tuned in to my live chat on healthy eating yesterday, please skip this post. (Hey, we ALL have our weaknesses!)

Finally, a food app really worth downloading!! 

If you’ve ever stalked your local Krispy Kreme waiting for that drool-inducing red “Hot Light” to shine, the chain just launched a free “Hot Light” app and desktop widget to help guide you to its signature warm doughnuts right as they come out of the kitchen.

The new tool includes …

  • Mobile Locator: Using your smartphone, you can enter a zip code to locate the closest Krispy Kreme location.
  • Website Locator: From your computer, the website locator will help you locate any Krispy Kreme shop in the U.S. – and will identify locations with “Hot Lights” on in your search area.
  • iPhone/Android Mobile App: Allows you to register to receive alerts when the Hot Light is on in your area. You can also get directions to your nearest Krispy Kreme and share Hot Light alerts with friends and family.
  • Tweet Your Zip Code: Tweet #HotNow and your zipcode and they’ll tweet you your nearest Krispy Kreme location.
  • Desktop Widget: When downloaded, a Hot Light icon on your desktop taskbar will alert you when the Hot Light is activated at your nearest shop. (GET OUT!) The desktop widget also allows you to print directions, search for other locations, and share Hot Light info on Facebook and Twitter.

You can get the app/widget and learn more at www.krispykreme.com/hotlightapp.

Halloween is less than a week away and we STILL don’t have our punkins – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the 4, 6 and 8-year-old little ones in our house.

When we finally make our trek to the market to get them (soon boys, swear!) we’ll use these tips to help pick the best of the bunch.

How to Pick a Perfect Pumpkin

  • For Show: A mature pumpkin will be difficult to scratch, bright orange, have a green stem and be fully hardened. A shiny skin indicates that it was picked too soon. Also check for scaring, soft spots and bruises.
     
  • For Painting: The best pumpkins for painting have smooth skin and shallow ribbing. The varieties Orange Smoothie, Cotton Candy and Lumina are great for this purpose.
  • For Carving: Choose a pumpkin with structural strength, a flat bottom, sturdy stem and the ability to last several days after being carved. (It will sound hollow when tapped.)
  • For Eating: Look for a pumpkin that feels heavy for its size, an indication that it will have more dense, edible flesh. Popular “pie pumpkins” include the Small Sugar (also known as Sugar Pie, New England Pie and Northern Pie), Winter Luxury, Cinderella, The Cheese and Golden Cushaw.

And speaking of eating, check back here every day from tomorrow (Oct. 26, 2011) through Halloween next Monday for great recipe ideas using pumpkin. From sweet and savory treats to pumpkin-infused cocktails, I’ll give you the scoop!