I ate a bear.
Not all of it, but lots of it, because it was a tasty little thing.
And alligator and turtle and lots and lots of venison.
Yep, just another day judging the West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off this past Saturday in Marlinton, an experience I almost missed out on.
The folks who organize the event had asked me to help judge the competition for years, but I always found an excuse (confession time) not to be there. Truth is, I just couldn’t get over the mental block of eating road-kill, even though they assured me the food was really, really good.
Turns out, teams aren’t cooking with actual road-kill at all, just recipes that incorporate the types of meat you “might” find mashed and mangled alongside a country road. And since dishes are served in a combination of home-style and elegant preparations, turns out they ARE really, really good.
Take my bear, for instance.
Cooking for the Youth Health Service Hillbillies, Peggy Stull from Bartow paired bear with venison and ground beef in a phenomenal, slightly spicy, subtly sweet “Predator Prey Chili” that I could have eaten all day. Spiked with onions, garlic, peppers, beans and assorted seasonings (and getting a tangy kick from soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and A-1 steak sauce) it was an easy first-place pick.
Not far behind, though, was Texas cook Cher Megasko’s “You Hit ’Em, We Spit ’Em” gumbo, featuring both alligator and turtle. Those meats were blended with andouille sausage, okra, stewed tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices in a rich, creamy base served over slow-cooked grits for an incredibly satisfying bowl of goodness.
And rounding out the top three was the Pendleton Community Bank Buck Busters with their tragically named “Fender-Fried Fawn Smothered in Vulture Vomit.” Unappetizing as it sounds, the marinated and pan-fried venison steaks served over a bed of cooked apples, onions and peppers were downright tasty.
In addition to those top finishers, thousands of guests sampling from tent to tent enjoyed venison au poivre over potato and corn cakes, a venison and cabbage soup, venison stew, venison over spiced lentils and more.
With my previous mental block over this event now in the rearview mirror, I’ve judged the cook-off twice now — and pray they invite me back again.
It’s a smashing success. A bloody good time. (Too much?)
From 6-8 p.m. this evening, Capitol Market hosts its largest — and most talked-about — fundraiser and social event of the year.Tonight’s annual Market Mixer will feature live music from The Company Stores, free giveaways, wine and beer, plus lots of tasty bites prepared by Chef Paul Smith and select market vendors — including Johnnies Fresh Meat Market, which will be serving up hamburger samples you can vote on for a “taste test.”
In addition, culinary students from Carver Career & Technical Center will be serving roasted cauliflower soup topped with scallion kimchi, butternut squash and apple bruschetta, Brussels sprouts with bacon jam, risotto cakes, shrimp cakes, mini chicken and waffles, sweet potato tart with red wine caramel sauce, popcorn macarons with salted caramel filling, and brandy snaps with lemon cream.
Oh. My. Goodness.
Tickets for tonight’s event are $60 if purchased online at www.capitolmarket.net or $75 at the door.
In other restaurant news ...Lola’s, the charming little gourmet pizza place (and sangria hot-spot!) on Bridge Road in South Hills, is hosting “Brunch & Beats” every Sunday through October with live entertainment from 1-3 p.m.
Due to popular demand, Tidewater Grill’s dog-friendly Yappy Hour, which featured people and canine specials on the patio from 3-7 p.m. every Thursday in September, has been extended through October now as well.
Finally, reader Betty Ann Miskowiec is hoping I can track down a recipe or any information about a pizza she used to love. “My favorite pizza was made by Mr. Alqatub at Sinbad’s in Kanawha City. I don’t know what his secret ingredient was. The sauce had a smoky-sweet taste. His place has been closed for several months now. Do you think you could get a recipe from him?” (Anyone?)