Archive for the ‘Contests’ Category

Chef Brown … You’ve Been Chopped!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
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If you read my column in today’s Daily Mail, you know I spent last night enjoying a fantastic night of wine, food, music and friends at Edgewood Country Club.

It was everything I expected in a nice evening out and more – and yet another feather in Festivall’s cap.

But what you don’t know is who won Charleston’s first-ever Edgewood Become a Work of Art “Chopped”-style culinary throwdown, in which two amateur chefs (and their teams) competed against one another to prepare two different dishes for four judges using a “mystery box” of ingredients revealed just 15 minutes before the stoves were fired up.

So who won? Oh, we’ll get to that.

First things first. What an AWESOME evening!

Held on Edgewood Country Club’s patio overlooking the city of Charleston, more than a hundred guests mingled – listening to the awesome “Fort Hillbillies” band, socializing with friends, sipping wine – while two culinary teams battled it out over a hot grill. Local “Wine Boy” John Brown and Charleston doctor Stefan Maxwell led their teams to create a menu featuring at least three ingredients from the mystery box (actually a coffin-sized cooler) presented to them right as the competition began.

Among their choices … sea bass, ahi tuna, ribeye and a selection of fresh produce, herbs, grains and full use of Chef Jeremy Still’s Edgewood Country Club pantry.

I immediately started plotting what I would make under the circumstances, but my ideas differed from what these fast-thinkers came up with on the fly. Chef Maxwell crafted a menu of a fire-grilled Caribbean Angus rib-eye roast with a rum-infused jerk reduction over warm potato salad. He paired that with a cored curried apple stuffed with goat cheese, figs and warm berry compote.

I loved the interplay of heat and sweat in his dish, but my steak was definitely overcooked compared to the plates I saw fellow judges enjoying on the left and right. Ah, consistency. But that sweet-savory-fruity apple dessert was one of the most ingenious, delicious I’ve had.

Chef Brown’s team offered a summer salad medley – a single plate featuring small tastes of crab Louis, grilled asparagus and a Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and julienned basil. Those are three dishes I love individually, but never would’ve thought to pair them together on the same plate. But why not?

The Brown team’s main course featured a Southwest-seared rib-eye, grilled broccolini and a farrow-stuffed grilled pepper. I dream of broccolini and farrow, so this was a winner in my book. The steak was cooked nicely, too, so there was little to find fault with here.

But that’s what judges do, so we filled out our scorecards to name an ultimate winner. And in the spirit of the show that inspired it … “Chef Brown, you’ve been Chopped!”

Chef Maxwell’s Caribbean-inspired menu won by the narrowest of margins, just 1.3 points out of a possible 60. So very close.

No matter, it was an awesome night – and yet another reason why West Virginia, Charleston and Festivall will forever hold a special place in my heart. (And belly.)

Charleston’s Best Eats? The “People” Have Spoken!

Monday, May 13, 2013
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s efforts to honor local employees, restaurants, businesses and hotels in conjunction with National Tourism Week.

After weeks of the public nominating – and then voting on – their favorites in a variety of categories, winners are being announced TONIGHT during a reception at the Charleston Civic Center!

In the food-related categories, honors go to …

  • Favorite Restaurant – Pies & Pints
  • Favorite Specialty Drink – Sangria, Lola’s
  • Favorite Food Dish – Black Bean Pie, Pies & Pints
  • Best Restaurant Employee – Dana Mindrescu, Marriott
  • Best Frontline Ambassador – Aaron Clark, Bridge Road Bistro

Congrats to all!

The Best Part of Wakin’ Up? Sing it Loud!

Monday, February 25, 2013
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Want to go down in the history books as one of the greatest TV commercial jingle composers of all time?

Here’s your chance …

From Johnny Cash’s soulful spin to the upbeat melody of Rascal Flatts, many musicians have put their spin on the catchy little “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up” jingle for Folgers. Composed by Leslie Pearl, the original jingle debuted in 1984 and has since been used in countless advertisements in country, R&B, a cappella and gospel versions.

Now the company is searching for the next great rendition.

Folgers and award-winning musician and songwriter Gavin DeGraw invite anyone with an affinity for music to submit their own version of the iconic jingle – “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up is Folgers in Your Cup” – by March 6, 2013, for a chance to win $25,000.

Individuals and groups of six or fewer are encouraged to submit original video entries through March 6 on www.folgers.com/jingle.Entries will be judged based on creativity/originality, musical performance and adherence to the creative assignment. The top 10 finalists will have their entries posted online for a nationwide vote from May 15 through June 19, 2013.

Go, Charleston, go!

Vote Now for the Best Fish Sandwich in Town!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
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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.

Bridgeport Woman Wins Super Bowl Recipe Contest

Sunday, February 3, 2013
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Just in time for tonight’s Super Bowl, a Bridgeport woman has beat out hundreds of entrants in the “Sporty Snack Showdown” at justapinch.com, a recipe and social network for home cooks. And she didn’t just win bragging rights, but also a $4,000 home entertainment system.

Jeanette Nelson won for her Island Teriyaki Tiki Chicken Bites, little rolls stuffed with Asian-flavored chicken, green onions, red peppers and carrots flavored with pineapple preserves, garlic, sesame oil, hot chili sauce and more.

“Who can resist this fabulous appetizer? I know I can’t — especially when you dip them into a sweet and sour sauce,” Jeanette says. “I guarantee if you put these in front of a crowd they will be gone in seconds!”

Nelson is a proud mom of three girls (ages 3, 7 and 11) and says Asian food is a hit in her family.

“This delicious appetizer recipe captures those flavors you find at your favorite Chinese restaurant.”

You can find the winning recipe, along with photos and notes about the dish, here.

 

 

West Virginia Gin Comes Up Short at ‘Food Oscars’

Saturday, January 26, 2013
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You may have read earlier this month that an up-and-coming West Virginia distillery was nominated as a national finalist in the prestigious Good Food Awards.

Considered the Oscars of the industry, the Good Food Awards reviewed nearly 1,400 entries before selecting Lewisburg’s Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin as one of only 184 finalists from 31 states to make the cut for this year’s ceremony.

The awards were handed out last week and, alas, Smooth Ambler didn’t win. But as they say at the Oscars, it really is an honor just to be nominated among such great company.

Smooth Ambler’s gin was nominated based on product quality (as judged through blind tastings) and their approach to environmental and social responsibility. It was West Virginia’s only finalist, although 14 honorees come from a Washington, D.C.-anchored “food shed” that covers West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Although I’m not a gin aficionado by any means, I have sampled Smooth Ambler and have to say it’s pretty special. Earning a score of 91 (and comments like “it really sings” and “it’s perfect”) by American Craft Spirits, Greenbrier Gin blends its juniper base with citrus and black-pepper spice to create a crisp, smooth and luxurious finish.

To learn more, visit www.smoothambler.com and www.goodfoodawards.org.

WVU Tech Groups Engineer Gingerbread Feats

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
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Kudos to the creative groups on campus at West Virginia University Institute of Technology for the awesome gingerbread houses they created for the school’s “Light Up Old Main” Christmas celebration this past weekend.

I made the trip down to Montgomery Friday night to help judge the competition and was impressed by the entries. My top two picks ended up sweeping all categories, so congrats to the winners listed and pictured below …

  • Most Creative: Women’s Softball
  • Most School Spirit: Women’s Softball
  • Most Holiday Spirit: Sydney S. & GK
  • Best Overall: Women’s Softball
  • People’s Choice: Sydney S. & GK

And special thanks to Ratliff Hall Resident Director Michael Sheldon for once again inviting me down to participate. The evening’s festivities also included a town Christmas parade followed by the “Light Up Old Main” ceremony on campus. Very nice evening!

Sydney S and GK House

Sydney S and GK House

Softball Team

Softball Team

 

Have a Great Recipe? Get it Published!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
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A local food market in Huntington is inviting folks to submit up to five of their favorite recipes for possible inclusion in an upcoming cookbook.

The Wild Ramp, located in the Shops at Heritage Station, is looking for those dishes that people always ask you to prepare for a potluck or family meal. They can be recipes you have cooked for years or a new dish that turned out particularly well, but they should embrace the “whole foods” concept as much as possible.

What’s that, you say? Just making sure you avoid or limit the use of prepared or highly processed ingredients. The goal of the “Wild Ramp Cookbook” is to encourage people that cooking from scratch is an easy and enjoyable thing to do.

But to ensure the book is out in time for the holidays, the deadline for recipe submission is pretty quick. As in they need them emailed to wildrampmarket@gmail.com by 7 p.m. this Friday. Recipes should be typed or legibly written, and you must include your name, phone number and email. If you’re submitting a recipe you received from someone else, be sure to note that as well.

The Wild Ramp is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
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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.

Get Your WV Food Product on Grocery Shelves

Monday, July 30, 2012
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Have a West Virginia food product that you’d like to market to the world? Here’s your chance.

Potential food entrepreneurs from across the state can once again compete for more than $10,000 in prizes — and the chance to have their specialty food launched in the marketplace — during the seventh annual West Virginia Recipe Challenge at the West Virginia State Fair.

Launched in 2006 by the West Virginia State University Extension Service (in collaboration with the State Fair of West Virginia, Tamarack and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture) the contest is designed as a launching pad for emerging entrepreneurs who dream of taking their home-cooked product to the grocery store shelf.

The challenge consists of two categories: new entrepreneur and existing business. Prizes in the categories differ but include recipe refinement, packaging design, label development, nutritional panel creation, technical assistance, production time in a commercial kitchen, product marketing and more.

Registration is now open for this year’s event (along with more information and complete rules) at grdi.wvstateu.edu/recipechallenge.