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The Food Guy: My three brushes with culinary fame

So get a load of this:

Guess who The Food Network just recruited to compile a comprehensive list of “West Virginia’s Most Iconic Dishes” to be featured on the national network’s website?

Yep, this guy.

“I oversee dining content for FoodNetwork.com,” Erin Hartigan began, “and I’m on the hunt for an expert on food in West Virginia. Specifically, I’m looking for a guide to the state’s iconic foods, including the best place to try each — and I can’t imagine anyone better to do it.”

Wow!

I thought this was a joke at first, but turns out it’s totally legit. I’m working on the piece now (which will include a mouthwatering photo slideshow) and it will be posted online by the end of the year.

I feel all famous and stuff.

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My head also got a little bigger when I heard the recent spotlight I shined on Charleston’s best burgers caused a run on beef for a local food supplier.

“Hey, you wouldn’t believe the restaurants that have run out of ground beef after your burger articles ran,” gushed Kayla Young from Buzz Food Service. “It’s been really cool to see.”

That is very cool. But, um, sorry for the inconvenience?

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And then there’s this “almost-famous” coincidence, courtesy of my 94-year-old grandmother ...

As my dad was going through some of her old papers after a recent move, he came upon a marriage certificate from The Commonwealth of Kentucky dated Aug. 23, 1918.

“Be it known that marriage is intended to be solemnized,” it proclaimed, between Stephen Keith and his betrothed “for the sum of one hundred dollars, so long as there is no lawful cause to obstruct such marriage.”

After a little digging, I learned that this Stephen Keith was my great-great-grandfather, born around 1852, and at the ripe ol’ age of 66 was getting hitched to his second wife, age 42.

Her name? Martha Stewart.

I kid you not.

No relation, I’m sure, but what a fun Food Guy fact.

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Finally, inspired by my recent West Virginia’s Tastiest Town series, a reader named Thomas reached out to share his ultimate Mountain State food tour.

“If the missus and I started out in Huntington and drove to the Eastern Panhandle, here would be our stops,” he wrote. Rocco’s (Kenova), Noah’s Eclectic Bistro (Charleston), Café Cimino (Sutton), The Forks (Elkins), Julio’s Café (Clarksburg), Sargasso and Tin 202 (Morgantown), finishing at the Bavarian Inn (Shepherdstown).

“We’d be as full as you are when you’re finished with one of your city visits!”

That’s a mighty fine list, Thomas, and I’m so glad you shed a little light on The Forks. I’ve been hearing SUCH amazing things about this place and can’t wait to check it out.

“We’ve eaten there seven times over the last year and a half and have never had anything but well-prepared dinners and appetizers, many of them locally sourced,” Thomas added. “Service is great as well. We recently had their cream of wild mushrooms soup, with morels picked that morning right out along the banks of Shavers Fork. Delicious.”

In the scenic mountain-view spot where The Lodge at Kelly Mountain used to be, The Forks Inn & Restaurant has been drawing rave reviews from foodies I know — including one particular couple who’s been nagging us to go.

Operated by brothers Trevor and Drew Stalnaker and their uncle, Executive Chef Jon Eric Stalnaker, they bring a combined 40+ years of restaurant experience to the cozy, remodeled lodge.

With a focus on high-quality local and seasonal ingredients, the trio grows most of their own herbs, smokes a variety of meats on site and makes everything from mouth-watering desserts and soups to specialty mustards and jams from scratch.

And Chef Stalnaker’s resume includes stints at restaurants in Colorado, South Carolina, Paris and West Virginia’s own Greenbrier, so he knows what he’s doing in the kitchen.

OK, Ken and Emily, let’s do this. You can check the place out yourself at www.attheforks.com. 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 wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

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