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Restaurants aren’t the only things gradually returning to normal as we continue to emerge (please, oh please) from the grips of COVID-19.

Live music and local events are starting to inch back onto the scene, including some of the area’s most popular food-related activities.

Sponsored by AARP West Virginia, “Let’s Get Cooking” classes with local chef Paul Smith will return to Capitol Market in a hybrid online and in-person format this year, after going all virtual last year when the pandemic put the kibosh on public gatherings.

Videos you can watch online will once again be offered, but so will in-person cooking demonstrations under the market’s outdoor pavilion.

This year’s classes will kick off in just a few weeks — at 11:30 a.m. on May 20, with a special Memorial Day menu — and will run the third Thursday of every month through Oct. 21.

Oh, and I almost forgot one more big change this year: New drink pairings will also accompany the dishes prepared during each class.

So, yes, Let’s Get Cooking. And sipping!

If you can’t wait until this year’s classes resume on May 20, you can drool through dozens of past “Let’s Get Cooking” recipes for soups and salads, dips and desserts, entrées and more at www.capitolmarket.net/recipes.

In related news, Capitol Market also recently announced that its annual Green Chili Cook-off usually held around St. Patrick’s Day has been rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4, this year.

With FestivALL, the Clay Center, Live on the Levee and the City of Charleston now promoting the return of some public events this year, it really is beginning to look a lot like a real summer in the capital city!

•••

If there wasn’t a “Ramp Burger Battle” brewing in the valley before, I’ve certainly started one now.

While there have been countless fans raving about the perennial favorite offered by Institute’s Ridge View BBQ each spring (featuring a mound of ramp-infused pimento cheese), folks also came out in droves to support a new contender introduced by the roadside Burger Carte stand in Smithers earlier this month (featuring ramp aioli, bacon and a fried-green tomato).

n “Totally worth the drive! It’s amazing.” — Stacey Hensley

n “My mother swears the Mountain Mama is absolute heaven.” — Kaci Foster

n “It is absolutely amazing! The burger is fresh-quality meat and quite tasty.” — Jessica Toath

n “I’m definitely at Mountain Mama fan. The fried green tomatoes and ramp aioli with crisp bacon and all the fixings … yummo!” — Tee Ess

n “It is well worth the 35+ minute drive to get you a Mountain Momma.” — Lora Heltne

Reader Kristin Booth even shared her praise right after biting into the burger by sending me photos of it taken from her car.

“I just returned from a trip to Burger Carte and I’m writing to let you know it is worth the drive!”

She reported the ramp aioli was delicious, but not overwhelming, with the flavors of all toppings blending together well.

“The pickle fries were good too,” she said. “Think miniature fried pickle spears about the size of French fries.”

She also pointed out that Kanawha Falls is just a few miles away from Burger Carte, offering a scenic view to take in with a “burger the size of your face.”

SOLD!

IF YOU GO: Burger Carte, 175 Virginia Ave. in Smithers, is currently open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 304-442-2071, visit www.burgercartefoods.com or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WV Food Guy.” He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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