Professor Food Guy. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
I was incredibly honored to be invited to speak at Monday night’s gathering of an Appalachian food culture class offered by the West Virginia Division of Culture & History.
Started by the late, great Robert Wong (an incredible chef and friend) back in 2012, a steady stream of culinary heavy-hitters have addressed the class through the years, often wowing students with culinary demonstrations as well.
Past classes at the West Virginia Culture Center have featured seasonal foods and recipes, Appalachian food history, cooking tips and techniques, entertainment and table-setting suggestions, among other topics.
For my program, I teamed up with Paterno’s at the Park manager Niki Kurten and chef Tim Arden, who kicked things off with a cooking demonstration showing how to prepare a delicious fall pork tenderloin atop an apple farro risotto, which we all got to sample afterward.
Then, with everyone in a delightful food coma, I tried to keep the group awake by sharing stories of the role food has played in my life, how I became The Food Guy years ago and the dramatic changes I’ve seen in West Virginia’s culinary scene.
A spirited discussion followed, where I was peppered with questions about my favorite restaurants and meals, which new spots I’ll be reviewing next and what did I think of this place or that.
It was such an enjoyable evening and I didn’t manage to put a single student to sleep. I’d give the night a solid A.
▪ ▪ ▪
Monday night’s talk was just the first in a full slate of tasty events I’ll be a part of in the coming months. Hope to see many of you as I’m out and about enjoying the following:
The Market Table
Remember when I told you all about that magical “farm to fork” dinner I enjoyed at Charleston’s Capitol Market a few months ago?
Well, there’s a similar fall dinner this Saturday evening, where guests will enjoy incredible food, great friends, music and more — all while gathered around elegantly dressed tables under twinkling lights hanging in the market’s outdoor pavilion.
Ticket sales have closed for this event, but stay tuned next spring for more just like it.
Charleston Seafood Fest
Charleston Seafood Fest also comes to the market from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, with free food, cooking demonstrations by area chefs, children’s activities, crafts, face painting, a balloon animal artist and photo contest.
There’s a good message that comes with all of that fun, too. Sponsored by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, the event also will help you learn more about the health benefits of seafood and offer free Omega 3 screenings.
But what am I looking forward to most? That day, they’ll also unveil the seafood specials many local restaurants will offer during this fall’s third-annual Charleston Seafood Week Oct. 22-29.
The Market Mixer
Things keep hopping at Capitol Market in a big way as the downtown fixture celebrates its 20th anniversary at this year’s Market Mixer soiree from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4.
Always one of Charleston’s most festive events, this year’s fete will feature a special Champagne fountain with a nearly 500-person toast to the market’s longevity and continued success, led by none other than The Food Guy.
I hope you’ll join me that evening, where you’ll also enjoy great food, wine and beer, live music and free goodies offered by merchants throughout the market. And the special commemorative champagne glasses we’ll use for that big toast? You get to take those home, too.
Tickets are $60 (which includes all food, drink and giveaways) and part of that amount is tax deductible. They can be purchased at the market office. Or if you want to be my BFF, you can order yours from me using the phone number or email address at the end of this column.
The town of Webster Springs holds its annual Burgoo Cook-off beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7. It’s an event I’ve been asked to judge multiple times, but scheduling conflicts have always kept me away. I’m hoping this is my year. For those who aren’t familiar, burgoo is a highly seasoned, traditional stew made of any combination of meat, fowl, game and vegetables you happen to have on hand.
The event is held at Baker’s Island Recreation, where contestants will be vying for $800 in cash prizes.
Hops & Heat
The weather may be getting cooler, but you can still have a hot time at next month’s Hops & Heat craft beer fest and chili cook-off from 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the East End Bazaar open-air artisan market at 1428 Washington Street E.
More than 20 Appalachian breweries will tap some 70-plus beers, which you can sample while tasting competition chili from local cooks hoping to whip up the winning batch. (And who helps determine those winners? Well, that’d be me.)
Additional food will be available for purchase, along with the goods of a handful of local artisans. A $30 tickets gets you in the gate — with unlimited beer and chili samples, three 12-ounce beer tickets and a branded 5-ounce tasting glass — while a $20 nondrinker tickets includes everything but the hooch.
The event is hosted by Charleston Main Streets, Charleston’s East End and the East End Bazaar. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Mac & Cheese Cook-Off
Finally, I’ve also been asked to judge the Childhood Language Center’s fourth-annual Mac & Cheese Cook-off from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Capitol Market. Tasting dozens of comforting entries studded with peppers, flecked with herbs, topped with bacon or just drowning in exotic cheeses — on a cool autumn afternoon, no less — is pretty much as good as it gets, if you ask me.
Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”