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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

"A Taste of ..." all the things at Habitat dinner

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Annual food feast at the Clay Center featured a bounty of Appalachian specialties

Hill and Hollow Habitat dinner at the Clay Center
Hill and Hollow Habitat dinner at the Clay Center

Last week, I previewed one of my favorite food events of the year: this Saturday night’s epic beer vs. wine FeastivALL gourmet pairing dinner at Berry Hills. This week, I’m going ga-ga over another one: next month’s amazing “A Taste of ...” gala at the Clay Center.

Presented by Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam, this annual fundraising dinner brings the food and chef from one of West Virginia’s most-talked-about restaurants to Charleston, giving you the chance to enjoy their food without ever leaving town.

This year’s event, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 5, features Morgantown’s popular farm-to-fork restaurant Hill & Hollow, which will be offering one of the most exciting “A Taste of ...” menus of the past several years. Award-winning chef Marion Ohlinger will treat local guests to a mouthwatering selection of Appalachian dishes created from locally sourced ingredients.

Just how mouthwatering?

You’ll get started with appetizers like trout fondue, confit beef poutine, roasted pumpkin soup, salt-rising bread, ramp flatbread, charcuterie, a warm spinach salad and local cheeses, then dig into entrees that include Appalachian cioppino, brown sugar pork tenderloin, roasted chicken with alfalfa, braised lamb, rabbit fricassee, duck shank, spaghetti squash lasagna, wild boar cobbler and buckwheat okonomiyaki cakes.

Full? Not yet. Better save room for desserts like pawpaw bread pudding, rhubarb crisp, mincemeat pie and buttermilk pie.

You can taste all of that in one night. Can you even imagine?

Perfectly paired with the menu, local musical group Chamberbilly will perform traditional Appalachian instrumental music with a contemporary twist.

If you’ve never attended one of these Habitat dinners, you’re in for a real treat. Combine great food, entertainment and friends with supporting such an amazing cause, and it’s one of my favorite nights of the year.

Tickets for the event are $75 each and can be purchased at All proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam.

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In new restaurant news, Smokin’ Barnyard has opened in the Charleston Town Center mall food court, offering a selection of pulled pork and sliced brisket sandwiches, steak burgers, wings, pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese, homemade chili and more.

Traditional sides include baked beans, coleslaw, green beans, baked potatoes and fries, with a brownie delight, cheesecake and assorted pies for dessert.

Owned by Oak Hill concession operators Bob and Connie McCoy, the new restaurant is located between Charley’s Subs and Chick-fil-A on the mall’s third-floor Picnic Plaza.

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Finally, in returning restaurant news, Charleston’s original health food café, The Shape Shop, is back in business after reopening in a new location on the West Side just a few blocks away from Dem Two Brothers at 706 Central Ave.

Run by Millie Snyder — award-winning author, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur and former 45-year CEO of Weight Watchers West Virginia — The Shape Shop’s previous café at Patrick Street Plaza served health-conscious diners in the valley for more than 40 years before closing its doors a while back.

An official grand reopening starts at 10 a.m. this Monday, when the restaurant will offer food samples, giveaways and savings cards to reintroduce themselves to the area. The Shape Shop’s food is diet-, allergen- and diabetes-friendly.

  • IF YOU GO: The Shape Shop, 706 Central Ave. in Charleston, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 681-265-3938, visit or visit “Shape Shop Café” on Facebook.

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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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