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

Fancy a Good Ramp Dinner? This One’s Fancy!

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.

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

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 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.

Give Your Grilled Cheese Some Olympic Flair

If you’re watching the 2014 Winter Olympics and get a serious case of the munchies, why not cook up a quick snack with the same international flair you’re watching unfold on the screen before you?

Maria Zoitas, creator of the “Maria’s Homemade” line of prepared foods sold exclusively at Westside Market NYC, offers a few unique twists on a classic sandwich – thanks to a few worldly ingredients.

We’re talking grilled cheese sandwiches made with international cheese combos like … 

  • Kefalograviera (Greece), Kerrygold (Ireland) and Red Gouda (Holland)
  • Raclette (Switzerland), Organic Sharp Cheddar (Australia) and Asiago (Italy)
  • Limburger (Germany) and Pepper Jack (America) 

Oh yeah. 

Make them using wedges of French baguette, Italian focaccia or some other international-style bread and you’ll score bonus points – even from the Russian judge!

Oh, Deer! What To Do With All That Venison?

With another deer-hunting season wrapping up, many of you may find your freezers full of rich venison meat waiting to be put to good use.

Well look no further!

Today’s Charleston Daily Mail offers a variety of suggestions to inspire you, including ideas from some from the area’s finest restaurants. (You can check them out here: And here’s another idea from my own experience …

My mother-in-law has served venison for big family dinners twice in the past week – and the results have been phenomenal. Born and raised in Austria, Louise Wiseman knows her way around the kitchen, and is especially skilled at baking world-class desserts and preparing flavorful, fork-tender meat.

This week’s venison was no exception.

Although she’s hesitant to reveal her precise recipe, I can tell you she braised it in a flavorful broth seasoned with mushrooms and onions until a fork pierced it as if it were soft butter. (You can make your own braising liquid, or use any combination of prepared broths/soups to create the taste you want.)

Pair this awesome venison with some roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a hearty red wine for one heckuva meal!

The Scoop on WV’s Black Walnut Ice Cream

West Virginia celebrates a big birthday this week (its 150th, y’all!) which has prompted a fair amount of discussion on the Mountain State’s contributions to the culinary world.

Pungent ramps. Rich and creamy biscuits and gravy. A piping hot pepperoni roll.

But let’s not forget black walnut ice cream, which has a rich heritage throughout the South and Midwest but is consumed most in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri and, yep, ol’ West By God.

The American Black Walnut is a 100% wild nut that’s been hand-harvested by locals for generations. Its bold, robust flavor is perfectly highlighted in cool, crisp ice cream.

And not only are we celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial this week, but July is National Ice Cream Month. That’s two reasons to seek out a scoop of Black Walnut Ice Cream – or just make a batch of your own with this recipe!



1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups light cream
1 cup half-and-half cream
½ tsp. black walnut extract
½ cup to ¾ cups black walnuts, chopped

  1. Blend together sugar, cream, half-and-half and black walnut extract. Pour into container of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. When ice cream is done, fold in black walnuts and transfer to a freezer container. Freeze until solid.



Pumpkin Sage Pasta a Satisfying Winter Dish

Although it’s generally enjoyed as part of a bountiful fall harvest, pumpkin should definitely stay in your cooking repertoire throughout the winter months, too.

Pumpkin Sage Pasta
Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Its earthy flavor adds a special “oomph” to savory soups and stews, risottos and casseroles. And we all know the starring role it plays on the sweet side – in pies, muffins, pancakes.

After a usually mild December gives way to January and February’s bone-chilling cold, I find myself craving warm, hearty pasta dishes more than usual. And there’s a place for pumpkin in those, too.

Try this awesome Pumpkin Sage Pasta, which adds fresh sage, Gruyère cheese, white wine and shallots for a richly satisfying dish.

The recipe is included below, and you can see it being prepared by clicking on this demo.


6 cups cooked short-cut pasta, such as trottole, spirals, penne or bow ties, kept warm
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon instant chicken flavor bouillon
1 can (12.5 fluid ounces) evaporated lowfat 2% milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons grated Gruyère cheese
Ground black pepper to taste

  1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sage leaves and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  2. Stir in wine and cook for 2 minutes or until reduced slightly. Stir in water and bouillon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to infuse flavors. With tongs, remove and discard sage leaves.
  3. Stir evaporated milk and pumpkin into skillet and heat through. Stir in Parmesan cheese and Gruyère cheese until melted. Add cooked pasta to skillet, then stir to coat and heat through.
  4. Season with pepper and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh sage leaves, if desired, before serving.

Top-Shelf Recipes Raise the Bar

So my friends at Maker’s Mark called to ask if I’d like them to send me a big ol’ bottle of their premium Kentucky bourbon.


“To use in some of our recipes,” they say.

Really? Can’t I just sip and savor this liquid gold as one should? But if I’m going to agree to accept the sample, I need to play by the rules and give their recipes due diligence.

So it was with great pain that I poured four precious cups of Maker’s Mark into a pitcher of lemon and orange peels, sugar, fruit juice, nutmeg and Champagne to stir up a creation called “Fancy Bourbon Punch.”

And it was with baited breath that I blended two tablespoons of top shelf bourbon into a brick of cream cheese for a “Blueberry Bourbon Cream Cheese Pie.”

My first thought as I was mixing up both creations was … SACRILEGE!

Would you use Kobe beef to make Hamburger Helper? Would you break open a $100 bottle of wine to make a pitcher of sangria? Well, maybe. I guess it would be better than using lesser-quality ingredients.

But when bias gave way to objectivity, I’ll have to say both treats were pretty tasty – especially after their respective flavors had a chance to meld overnight.

The cocktail still had the depth and punch of bourbon, but with a sweetened, fruity, spiced twist. (The nutmeg did wonders!) And the dessert was like a traditional blueberry pie atop a thin cheesecake base, with a hint of bourbon laced through both layers.

Well played, Maker’s Mark. Not a waste after all!


x   x   x


The folks at recently compiled a list of “All-American Eats: Must-Try Foods from the 50 States” featuring the ingredients or dish they felt best represented each place.

Some interesting items showed up, including white barbecue sauce fromAlabama, prickly pear cactus from Arizona, buffalo burgers from Montana, knoephla (a German potato and dumpling soup) from North Dakota, and fried chicken and waffles from Georgia.

There were some pretty unusual entries, too. Chocolate gravy and biscuits from Arkansas, a horseshoe sandwich from Illinois (an open-faced meat sandwich covered with fries and cheese sauce) and cashew chicken from Missouri. Who knew Missouri was so … oriental?

But there were no such surprised when it came to West Virginia. Ramps, baby!

“Garlicky, pungent ramps are a rare green with a short growing season, but they are ample in the Appalachian region, and seem to thrive in the cool mountains of West Virginia,” the article said.

“Also known as wild leeks, these strongly flavored greens are highly sought after when available. They are used in all types of dishes, from roasts to pastas to egg breakfasts. But their unique flavor might be best savored in a quick, simple sauté with a quality olive oil, salt, and pepper.”

The site also suggested where to get you some good ones.

“Richwood is the capital of the wild ramp. The town is home to the National Ramp Association and the Annual Feast of the Ramson, which takes place every April. Because ramps are such a seasonal food, it can be difficult to find them on restaurant menus, even in the heart of ramp country,” it said.

“But at the peak of the season, in very early spring, check out the Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston. The restaurant focuses on making fresh, local food packed with regional vegetables and other West Virginia specialties.”

Pretty cool.

The feature also included an elegant recipe, courtesy of Oprah Magazine, for flash-sautéed ramps with sugar snap peas and pattypan squash with toasted walnuts and fresh pea tendrils. We’re a little late in the year for fresh ramps, but clip this idea in case you saved any in the freezer or to tuck away for next spring.

Have your own ideas about what dish should represent the Mountain State? Share your suggestions socially at


Blueberry Bourbon Cream Cheese Pie

4 cups fresh blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. Maker’s Mark bourbon
½ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pre-baked pie shell 

  1. Mash 2 cups of the blueberries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of bourbon. Place the berry mixture in a medium pan and place it over medium heat. Bring the filling to a boil, stirring, and boil it until it is thickened and clear, about 3 minutes. Let the filling cool to room temperature.
  2. Beat together the cream cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons bourbon. Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of the pie crust.
  3. Stir the remaining blueberries into the cooled berry filling. Spread the berry filling over the cream cheese layer. Chill the pie at least 2 hours, or until it is cold. Serve with lightly whipped cream. 

Recipe by Ian Knauer, Food Writer and Cookbook Author


Sauteed Ramps with Squash
Sauteed Ramps with Squash

Sauteed Ramps, Sugar Snap Peas & Pattypan Squash

1 bunch ramps or scallions
1 pound sugar snap peas
2 Tbsp. walnut oil or olive oil
½ pound baby yellow pattypan squash or 2 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 Tbsp. orange zest, finely grated
salt and pepper
½ cup pea tendrils
¼ cup walnuts, chopped 

  1. Trim roots from ramps and finely chop white bulbs. Slice green leaves into 1/4-inch strips. String sugar snap peas, cut off stem ends and leave whole.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add white part of ramps and cook 1 minute. Add peas and pattypan squash. Sauté until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in zest, salt and pepper to taste and ramp greens.
  3. Remove from heat and stir until greens slightly wilt. Add pea tendrils and walnuts before serving.

Recipe from O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine

Blueberry Bourbon Pie
Blueberry Bourbon Pie

If you’re a fan of bourbon , or just tasty food and drink, be sure to check out today’s column ( sharing my adventures in the kitchen mixing up a fancy bourbon punch — seriously, it’s called Fancy Bourbon Punch — and a bourbon blueberry cream cheese pie.

I never would’ve dreamed up either recipe, but both were nice, so thanks to my friends at Maker’s Mark for suggesting I try them. And for the big bottle of liquid gold they sent so I could do so!

The pie recipe made the paper, but below are recipes for the punch and bourbon-spiked burgers that would be awesome on the grill. Enjoy!


Fancy Bourbon Punch

1 liter Maker’s Mark bourbon
1 cup granulated sugar
Peels of 3 lemons and 1 orange
Juice of peeled fruit
1 liter of strong tea (preferably green tea)
250 ml champagne or club soda
Freshly grated nutmeg 

  1. Combine sugar and citrus peels in the bottom of a punch bowl. Muddle together until sugar starts to clump together. Let sit for about 2 hours.
  2. Brew the tea for about 30 minutes, remove loose tea or tea bags, and allow to cool. Add the juice of the peeled fruit, tea and bourbon. Stir.
  3. Top with champagne just before serving and stir gently. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and serve.

Recipe by Matt Wallace, Seven Grand


Maker’s Mark Kobe Beef Burger

4 six-ounceKobebeef hamburger patties (or regular ground beef)
½ cup plus 2 tsp. Maker’s Mark bourbon
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 pieces plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced with the grain
salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
4 soft hamburger buns, brioche preferably 

  1. Marinate patties in shallow baking dish with ½ cup of bourbon. Sprinkle patties with ¼ of the minced garlic. Refrigerate for two hours, then flip the patties and sprinkle with another ¼ of the garlic. Refrigerate another two hours.
  2. While burgers are marinating, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place cut tomato halves on a parchment lined sheet tray, cut side up. Brush tomatoes lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, thyme and remaining garlic. Place in the oven and allow tomatoes to slow roast for about 1½-2 hours until they are slightly dehydrated and begin to color. Once tomatoes have cooled, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of bourbon over them and refrigerate until needed.
  3. While tomatoes are cooking, caramelize the onions. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add vegetable oil and onions to pan. Season onions with salt and cook until they begin to soften, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes more until they begin to break down more and color slightly.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook onions, stirring occasionally, for roughly 2 hours, or until the onions caramelize deep golden brown. Add water to the pan as necessary if the onions begin to stick. Once onions are cooked, transfer to a small container and stir in 1 teaspoon of bourbon. Refrigerate until needed.
  5. Heat the grill, grill pan or griddle to high heat. Remove burgers from marinade, lightly brush both sides with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Cook your burgers to desired doneness. To assemble, lightly toast bun if desired. Add the burger patty and top with caramelized onions and two pieces of tomatoes.

Recipe by Hiassam and Ali Beydoun, Frites ‘N’ Meats

In case you missed it in last week’s Daily Mail, South Hills Market & Cafe will once again feature a special cherry dish on its menu asWest Virginia’s chosen restaurant to help celebrate National Rainier Cherry Day all week. (The big day was Wednesday, July 11.)

Northwest Cherries has selected one restaurant from every state to feature a uniqueRainiercherry dish incorporating the famed fruit’s crisp bite and pale yellow flesh. Chef Richard Arbaugh received 40 pounds of cherries to play around with and, in doing so, came up with a pan-seared foie gras with Rainier cherry gastrique, pan-seared Hudson Valley duck breast braised with Rainier cherry and buckwheat cake, and a Rainier cherry and almond baklava.

You can enjoy the baklava at the restaurant this week – or try making it yourself with the recipe below! It’s a wee bit labor-intensive, though.

Located at 1010 Bridge Road, South Hills Market & Cafe is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 304-345-2585 for more information or reservations.


Rainier Cherry & Almond Baklava

Nut Filling
1 1/4 Cups of Whole Almonds
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp. Ground Cardamom

Cherry Filling
6 Ounces Cherries
1/4 Cup Apricot Jam

1 Pound Filo at Room Temperature
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted

1/3 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Honey
2 Tbsp. Amaretto

3 Tbsp. Chopped Toasted Almonds

For the Filling:

Place the almonds in a bowl of a food processor and blend until finely chopped, (about 15 to 20 seconds) add the sugar and the cardamom pulse three or four times. Transfer to a medium bowl.

To Prepare the Cherry Filling:

Place cherries and apricot glaze in a bowl pulse until it is a course mixture. Transfer mixture to a small bowl.

To Prepare Filo: 

Remove from packaging and unfold so the stack lies flat on work surface. Cut the stacks in half crosswise, then trim each half to measure 8inches by 8 inches. Stack them on top of each other and cover with a damp cloth. Place your first piece in greased 8by 8 inch pan. Lay each piece of filo in the pan brushing melted butter lightly. Do not saturate with to much butter, repeat with five more pieces of filo.

Cover the top piece with about a 1/3 of a cup of the nut mixture. Repeat this process only using three sheets of filo and two more layers of the nut filling. Place three more sheets of filo and with an off set spatula place the entire cherry filling across the pastry. Place three more sheets of filo on top and cover with 1/3 cup of nut filling repeat three times. You should have used up the nut filling by now.

Top with five sheets filo buttered lightly. Place the baklava in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. After the 30 minutes has passed pull baklava out of freezer and cut to desired shapes with a sharp knife. Place the pan in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Turn oven down and bake an additional 20 minutes and remove from oven letting cool on rack. Retrace cuts with knife and make sure that you cut all the way through.

To Make Syrup

Place sugar and water in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat. Use a candy thermometer and cook until the temperature reaches 218 F. Remove from the heat. Stir in honey and amaretto, return to the heat and cook until it reaches boiling. Pour evenly over cooled baklava and top with the toasted almonds. Allow the syrup to saturate the pastry (2-3 hours)  the baklava will be at its best after 8 hours. Store with a loose covering up to five days.



Everything Tastes Better with (Flavored) Butter

I was recently flipping through one of the countless food magazines that proliferate around the house when I came across a gorgeous recipe and photo for Tilapia with Garlic-Lime Butter.

I do like tilapia, but it was the glistening butter that caught my eye.

Everything tastes better with butter, even more so when you sauté, drizzle or whisk in a nice flavored butter.

They’re so easy to make, too. Just soften butter and mix in your chosen ingredients, then let it harden back up in the fridge or use as-is. You can also simmer butter with add-ins to create a nice sauce.

No doubt it was the garlic and lime that really made that recipe sing, so here are a few other combos for flavored-butter inspiration:

  • Parsley-Shallot Butter
  • Smoky Paprika Butter
  • Toasted Almond-Cardamom Butter
  • Bacon Bourbon Butter
  • Chipotle-Lime
  • Porcini-Red Wine
  • Tumeric-Mustard Seed
  • Nori-Sesame