Vandalia Gathering Hosting a Sweet Bake-off

May 23, 2014 by The Food Guy
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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.

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

March 22, 2014 by The Food Guy
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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.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark … Beer, That Is!

March 17, 2014 by The Food Guy
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Many people steer clear of drinking “dark” beers like stouts, porters or black ales because of their ominous color, fearing they are too heavy or strong..

But there’s no reason to be afraid of the dark. A beer’s color is not necessarily an indicator of its body, calorie content, alcohol level – even taste.

So if you plan to hoist a pint for St. Patrick’s Day tonight, keep in mind these three commonly held myths surrounding dark beer – as debunked by Julia Herz, publisher of CraftBeer.com and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association

 

Myth 1: All dark beers are rich and heavy.

Dark beer color comes from the barley and rising temperatures of heat. Color is not an indicator of weight or body of a beer.

Myth 2: Dark beers have more calories than paler beers.

The toasting is the reason that the beer is darker. The color of the beer has nothing to do with the calories it contains.

Myth 3: All dark beers are higher in alcohol.

Many dark beers are the same alcohol level of paler beers – some event lower. Color is not an indicator of alcohol levels of any beers, of any style.

 

If you’re looking for some Happy Hour inspiration, CraftBeer.com has also put together a list of local, American Craft Beer to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

And if you’re in need of some St. Patrick’s Day recipes (I’ve got the Corned Beef and Cabbage simmering on the stove as we speak), CraftBeer.com also offers more than 70 recipes that call for Stout to help you out.

Kiss for a Free Queso – Today Only at Qdoba

February 14, 2014 by The Food Guy
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Now here’s a Valentine’s Day restaurant promotion that I actually get a kick out of … 

Go into any Qdoba Mexican Grill today and kiss your mate – or a complete stranger, if they’re willing – and you’ll get a free entrée with a purchase of one of the restaurant’s Queso entrées.

The fourth-annual “Queso for a Kiss” campaign coincides with the rollout of the chain’s new Queso Diablo and Queso Verde creations launched just this week.

Queso Diablo features a blend of fiery jalapenos and smoky chipotles, while Queso Verde incorporates fresh cilantro and lime juice for a smooth and zesty flavor. The original 3-Cheese Queso is available, too, and any of these three options can be enjoyed in a burrito or variety of entrees.

Charleston’s two Qdoba locations are at Trace Fork and Charleston Town Center mall. For more information, check out www.qdoba.com.

Now who’s ready to pucker up? I’m hungry!

Give Your Grilled Cheese Some Olympic Flair

February 9, 2014 by The Food Guy
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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!

Flavor Forecast: Predicting 2014’s Top Food Trends

January 17, 2014 by The Food Guy
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As much as people have been buzzing about Charleston’s upcoming “Restaurant Week,” there’s been no escaping the week’s biggest local news – a tainted water supply that forced the closure of almost all local restaurants.

Like many people, I turned to social media for all the latest updates and occasional comic relief to help laugh away the pain. Among the witty banter I saw, one post that particularly resonated with me involved a New Year’s do-over.

Lamenting the wave of sub-zero temperatures that gripped the area and a subsequent chemical leak that poured more salt in our wounds, one friend called for another celebration to ring in 2014 once all this mess is cleaned up.

Love it.

So in honor of ringing in a “new” new year, here’s a sneak peek at what’s supposed to be hot on this year’s food scene.

Marketing and communications agency JWT has just released the results of its ninth annual forecast of world trends, including some that relate to food and drink …

  • Edible Packaging – To make their food more sustainable, marketers are tapping into new technologies to create edible wrappers around burgers, ice cream and more.
  • Infused Ice Cubes – Taking cocktail culture to the next level, mixologists are starting to push the flavors of their concoctions with infused ice: cubes of different shapes and sizes that are made with juices, fruits, syrups and herbs, enhancing their look and adding complementary flavors as they melt.
  • Silent Meals – To help diners eat more mindfully, some restaurants now hold silent meals. The Brooklyn restaurant Eat has been doing this periodically, asking patrons to remain quiet and focus on the taste of the food, sounds of the food prep and details of the room. In Mexico City, “anti-restaurants” have popped up where people eat in silence — no music, noise or waiter haranguing you.
  • Ugly Produce – Seeing more lumpy heirloom tomatoes or gnarled carrots on store shelves or at farmers markets? If not, you will. In Europe, there’s a movement afoot to reduce food waste by selling rather than discarding imperfect produce. U.K. magazine Delicious is encouraging readers to buy imperfect produce and speak out against regulations governing the appearance of produce sold in stores.

Spice company McCormick also compiled its annual list of the top flavors to look for in 2014 …

  • Aji Amarillo: A hot Peruvian yellow chile pepper with bold, fruity flavor.
  • Kashmiri Masala: An often homemade blend of spices from northern India featuring cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and ginger.
  • Tea: Not just for sipping anymore, this natural ingredient is making its way into rubs, broths and marinades.
  • Chamoy Sauce: A unique Mexican condiment (made from apricot, lime, chilies and spices) that is beginning to gain a following in the U.S.
  • Cassava Flour: Also known as manioc or tapioca flour, this gluten-free alternative is a Brazilian staple prized for its versatility.

Charleston “Restaurant Week” Menus Announced!

January 15, 2014 by The Food Guy
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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

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

January 1, 2014 by The Food Guy
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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: http://bit.ly/Juxu5z) 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 Last Supper … For Turkey Leftovers

December 2, 2013 by The Food Guy
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We’re now entering Day 4 of turkey leftovers. Or as I like to call it …  

ENOUGH ALREADY! 

After today, I’ll be breaking down what’s left of that big bird to make a giant pot of homemade stock to freeze in smaller containers that can be pulled out to flavor soups, stews, rice and more over the coming weeks. 

But if you have any meat left, you can still get one more meal out of the thing. Today’s recipe calls for angel hair “nests” (available in some specialty food stores) but you can also just serve this over any ol’ pasta for similar results. 

 

Angel Hair Nests with Turkey and Leek

 

1–2 packages of angel hair nests

5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1-1.5 cups cooked, skinless turkey breast

5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced

1 cup water

3/4 cup finely chopped green onions, divided

1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Cut cooked, skinless turkey into bite-size pieces or shreds; set aside.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Reduce heat to medium, and add leeks. Cook 7 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. Add water, 1/2 cup green onions and wine; cook, covered, 10 minutes or until leeks are soft.
  3. Transfer mixture to a blender. Cover and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Cover and keep warm.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 3 batches, gently lower pasta into boiling water. Cook 6 minutes or until al dente. Carefully remove pasta with a large slotted spoon, gently shaking to remove excess liquid. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta.
  5. Arrange cooked pasta nests on a large rimmed platter. Spoon sauce evenly over each nest. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese, and top with turkey. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup green onions.

     

    Recipe courtesy www.dececcousa.com

Beef Stroganoff – Beef + Turkey = Tasty Results

December 1, 2013 by The Food Guy
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I adore Beef Stroganoff, with its chunks of meat and fat egg noodles bathed in a creamy sauce made with sour cream, Dijon mustard, onions and parsley. 

So why not replicate the dish with a few leftovers from the Thanksgiving table? 

Today’s recipe takes advantage of some of that turkey (you can use white or dark meat), plus adds mushrooms and cranberries for a super-quick satisfying meal. 

And if the addition of cranberries doesn’t tempt your taste buds, you can easily omit them – no harm done.  

 

Turkey Stroganoff with Mushrooms & Cranberries

9 oz. wide egg noodles

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 ½ cups/8 oz. finely chopped onion

1 ½ cups/4 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

6 Tbsp./3 oz. dry white wine

6 Tbsp./2 oz. dried cranberries, preferably unsweetened

3 cups/12 oz. shredded cooked white and dark meat turkey

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

12 oz. reduced fat sour cream

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

 

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and sauté the onions and mushrooms until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and add the cranberries. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the turkey, Dijon mustard and sour cream. Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Divide the noodles between 6 bowls. Top with stroganoff mixture and sprinkle with parsley.
    Recipe courtesy www.pastafits.org