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The Food Guy: Clay Center's debut tasting bash a smashing success

First-time food events can be tricky.

You’ve never organized something quite like this before, you’re not exactly sure how interested food and drink vendors might be to participate and, above all, you certainly don’t know how well the public will respond in terms of purchasing tickets and actually showing up.

Don’t tell any of that to Maria Belcher.

At Friday night’s “Sip & Savor: A Bourbon & Bites Bash,” the Clay Center’s event specialist and her team pulled off one of the nicest all-around tasting events the city has seen in some time.

It was well planned and executed, with hundreds of guests eating and drinking with plenty of room to move around. It was comfortably elegant, with the “business casual” and “dressed to the nines” sets all fitting in.

And, it was delicious.

I showed up more excited about the bourbons, but left mightily impressed with some of the bites. Among my favorites:

  • Candied bacon, paired with Smooth Ambler’s Big Level Bourbon
  • Fried green tomatoes with cider reduction, paired with Buffalo Trace
  • A mini shepherd’s pie with ground lamb, whipped potatoes, mirepoix and au jus, paired with Redemption High Rye Bourbon
  • Mac ’n’ cheese bites, paired with Basil Hayden’s
  • Rock City Cake Company’s mini milk-chocolate cupcake with peanut butter center, topped with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, chocolate ganache drizzle, and chocolate and peanut butter shavings, paired with good ol’ Jack Daniel’s Rye
  • And the dessert of the night, Rock City’s phenomenal mini fig and honey-infused muffin filled with goat cheese cream and garnished with walnuts and cinnamon-sugar crystals, paired with Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.

Sadly, I ran out of tickets (and room in my belly) before I even got to the smoked chicken wing with peach habanero BBQ sauce, paired with Virgil Kaine Ginger-Infused Bourbon; and Peace, Love & Little Donuts’ salted caramel pretzel donut, paired with Woodford Reserve.

So many people came up to me throughout the evening to comment on how excited they were to have an event like this in Charleston now, and how impressed they were that it sold out the first year. I couldn’t agree more.

Sorry, Maria, but it looks like you have a recurring event on your plate now.

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After raving about two dishes I recently loved at Aladdin — but lamenting the lack of a key ingredient in one of them — reader Anne Shaheen suggested I might want to go back and try it again.“They must have been out of béchamel, as that’s what’s usually on top,” she said. “It’s my favorite dish in all of Charleston.”

It was still so good.

“I just wish Mykonos served their moussaka at one of their locations,” she added, referring to Creperi Café and Pizza Barbarossa at Trace Fork and Dudley Farms, respectively. Those restaurants are owned and operated by Manoli and Aoleen Stavrulakis, the couple who ran the popular Greek restaurant Mykonos Café on Capitol Street years ago.

Moussaka, no, but both places do offer a blast of Mykonos’ past.

Pizza Barbarossa serves shrimp-laced Mykonos Spaghetti and Creperi Café serves the former restaurant’s delicious lemon rice soup. I remember enjoying many a bowl of that tangy goodness on Capitol Street back in the day.

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Charleston’s Tidewater Grill has gone to the dogs this month. But no, that’s not referencing a bad Food Guy review.The restaurant’s patio is opening its doors to our canine friends during a series of “Yappy Hour” celebrations from 3-7 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 27.

Guests are invited to bring their dogs while they (the humans) enjoy $3 off specialty cocktails and appetizers, $2 off all draft beer, $2 off Joel Gott and Beringer Wines, and $1 off all bottled beer and well drinks.

As for the pups, they have a special menu, too! Scooby Doo’s Organic Stew and Buford’s Peanut Butter Dog Cookies will be sold for $6.95.

Specials (and dogs) are for the patio only. For more information, visit tidewatergrill restaurant.com.

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Now that hot summer days are giving way to cooler autumn nights, I’m sure you’re ready to turn your attention to ... St. Patrick’s Day?Although I haven’t seen any decorations for that March holiday in stores just yet (give it another few days), organizers of the Kanawha Valley’s spring Celtic Calling festival are joining hundreds of countries across the world in celebrating a new “Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” holiday on Sept. 17.

Locally that day, you can drop into Adelphia Sports Bar & Grille on Capitol Street — a hub venue for the spring event — to enjoy food and drink specials featuring Guinness and Jameson Irish Whiskey. The event runs from 5:30-8 p.m., with performances by a Celtic bagpiper, dancers and musicians starting at 6:30 p.m.

A portion of the evening’s food proceeds go to support next year’s festival March 1-3, 2019.

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“Cornbread & Roses,” the theme for this year’s Appalachian Food Summit, takes place Friday through Sunday at Bridgeport Conference Center in — you guessed it — Bridgeport.The public is invited to join a weekend of conversation exploring Appalachia’s rich history of labor and activism through food. There will also be free time built in to explore north-central West Virginia’s farmers, chefs and food producers.

The event kicks off Friday evening with a free Cornbread Convocation in downtown Clarksburg, followed by summit sessions Saturday morning. It concludes Sunday with a free Appalachian Food Summit Day at the Bridgeport Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Charles Point next to the conference center.

The cost for the summit itself is $25, with an optional $40 Food Summit Supper Saturday night at the conference center.

For more information, check out Appalachia Food Summit’s “Cornbread & Roses” event page on Facebook.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy/. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by e-mail at wvfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”

Funerals for Friday, September 20, 2019

Barton, Richard - 3 p.m., Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

Birthisel, Avis - 11 a.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Call, Denver - Noon, Allen Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Dearien, Tommie - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.

Fletcher, Joanna - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Keeney, Steven - 2 p.m., Keith Full Gospel Church, Keith.

May, Rosa - 2 p.m., Bartlett - Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Morris, Linda - 1 p.m., Deal Funeral Home, Point Pleasant.

Parsons, Harry - 11 a.m., Ellyson Mortuary Inc., Glenville.

Pauley, Clarence - 10 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans.

Pino, Patricia - 11 a.m., Bradley FreeWill Baptist Church.

Rogers, Marilyn - 11 a.m., Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, South Charleston.

Satterfield, Kenneth - 5 p.m., Satterfield residence, 1161 Daniels Run Road, Millstone.