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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Capital Cocktail Classic returns this fall, but with a twist

The elevated downtown pub crawl known as the Capital Cocktail Classic returns this fall with a new date, new times and a new restaurant in the mix.

Lobster and pork belly atop puff pastry from Sam's Uptown Cafe
Lobster and pork belly atop puff pastry from Sam's Uptown Cafe

For those who are unfamiliar, this annual fundraiser supporting the Fund for the Arts lets ticket holders visit four different downtown restaurants over the course of a Saturday evening to enjoy a specialty cocktail paired with a featured appetizer at each place. At the end of the night, guests get to vote on their favorite cocktail, appetizer and overall pairing to pick the evening’s winners.

This year’s event will take place from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Bar 101/Ichiban, Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, Sam’s Uptown Café and new kid on the block, DT Prime.

But you don’t have to wait until that night to see what’s in store. I’ll be reviewing each cocktail and food pairing over the coming weeks to give you a little “taste” of what to expect.

The Presbyterian from Sam's
The Presbyterian from Sam's

First up is Sam’s, where owner Paul “PG” Greco prepared event organizer Alan Kuhlman and me samples of the food-and-drink pairing he’ll be offering at this year’s Classic. And, man, was it good.

His dish is a baked puff pastry topped with spicy sauce-glistened lobster, grilled pork belly, sliced avocado and a roasted pineapple-habanero sauce. And if that weren’t enough, it’s finished with a sprinkling of wasabi roe.

That tasty tapas dish is paired with a wonderfully light, bright, crisp, fragrant and effervescent cocktail he’s calling The Presbyterian, featuring the band Metallica’s “Blackened American Whiskey” blended with bold ginger ale, orange essence oil and an orange slice.

Like the band whose spirit it contains, this drink is rockin’!

Stay tuned here for a sneak peek at all remaining offerings and you can follow the event’s Facebook page to learn more.

Tickets are $50 per person now through Sept. 23, but increase to $60 each (or $110 per couple) starting Sept. 24. All proceeds benefit Fund for the Arts, which provides financial support to 12 different local performing arts groups. You can purchase tickets at

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Speaking of popular culinary fundraisers, the 12th annual Chefs Challenge dinner benefitting Covenant House will take place from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Clay Center.

On the menu this year is an all-star lineup of local chefs preparing mouthwatering items that will all come together to create a memorable meal. The “challenge” is they have to do so using many ingredients typically found in the Covenant House’s food pantry.

Based on the menu so far, it sounds like to me they’ve risen to that challenge – and then some. Hors d’oeuvres will include Bacon & Cheese Mini-Scones with Chive Crema by Teri Blevins from Lil Bit of Heaven Cupcakes, plus offerings from Ichiban’s Evan Wilson and Betty Reed from Embassy Suites.

Paul Smith from 1010 Bridge will prepare a Hernshaw Farms Mushroom Bisque with Truffle Chicken Skin Croutons & Micro Radish, while Black Sheep’s Kevin Jackson and Kevin Madison will create a Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Figs and Walnuts, along with artisanal rolls.

The evening’s meat entrée will be Chicken Florentine from Edgewood Country Club’s Dennis Harris, with a vegetarian option of Grilled Eggplant with Black Lentil & Chickpea Hash with Green Goddess Crema, also from Paul Smith. Sides will include Candied Brussel Sprouts from Bridge Road Bistro’s Joshua Reedy and Sandy Call, along with Herb-Roasted Baby New Potatoes from Betty Reed.

To cap off the night, guests can dig into Caramel Apple Bread Pudding or Deconstructed Smashing Pumpkins, both created by Rock City Cake Company’s Morgan Morrison.

That’s an all-star lineup indeed.

Tickets are $125 per person. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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Wrapping up this week’s roundup of fabulous fundraising fetes, Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha & Putnam will host its annual A Taste Of … dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Clay Center.

This annual event brings in one of West Virginia’s top restaurants from outside the Kanawha Valley each year to offer “a taste of” some of its food here, so locals don’t have to leave the capital city to give it a try.

This year’s guest restaurant is the popular Italian spot Pasquale’s in Beckley, which will serve up a menu of lasagna, Italian sausages, meatballs with sauce, tortellini alfredo, chicken penne pasta, fried ravioli and manicotti, plus antipasto and caprese salads with tiramisu and mini cannolis for dessert.

Tickets for the event are $100 each or two for $175, with proceeds benefitting the local Habitat for Humanity. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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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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