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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Food festivals and events fill the next three weekends

Food festival season is upon us, with three big ones planned over the next three weekends.

James Beard-nominated Chef Paul Smith will prepare food for Flowers After Hours at Capitol Market.
James Beard-nominated Chef Paul Smith will prepare food for Flowers After Hours at Capitol Market.

On the heels of this Saturday’s WV Food Truck Festival at the Eleanor Park & Fairgrounds in Putnam County, which I told you about last week, next Saturday sees the return of Flowers After Hours in the colorful outdoor pavilion at downtown Charleston’s Capitol Market.

This spring mixer from 6 to 9 p.m. that evening will feature heavy hors d’oeuvres by James Beard-nominated Chef Paul Smith from 1010 Bridge Restaurant paired with specially selected wines from The Wine Shop’s Ted Armbrecht.

White Cheddar Pimiento Cheese Bites
White Cheddar Pimiento Cheese Bites

Guests that evening will be able to mix and mingle while savoring treats like bacon-wrapped dates, white cheddar pimiento cheese bites and more, with entertainment provided by the band Hot Jazz of Charleston.

A few tickets remain for this sure-to-sell-out soiree. Available to purchase in the event section of, they are $60 each for all food and drinks (must be 21+ to purchase) or just $30 for food only.

Then on the following weekend, Saint George Cathedral hosts The Saint George Festival featuring two days of Mediterranean food, wine, beer, music, games and more on May 6 and 7. Events will run from noon to 9 p.m. that Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. that Sunday at the church, which is located at 190 Court St. in Charleston.

Stay tuned for more details on the foods to be offered during that festival.

Chefs Battle it Out at Cookin’ for Comfort

Speaking of food events, yours truly has been asked to serve as a judge for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern West Virginia’s Cookin’ for Comfort on May 1.

Chef Paul Smith
Chef Paul Smith

During this fun competition from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that evening, guests will be able to watch as two local chefs battle each other to see who can re-create the most delicious, elevated version of their favorite childhood meal. The evening will also feature hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine and entertainment.

Duking it out for top honors that night will be none other than the aforementioned Chef Paul Smith of 1010 Bridge Restaurant and The Pitch of WV, along with Chef John Wright from The Pitch of KC and formerly Bridge Road Bistro.

Joining me on the celebrity judges panel to score dishes on taste, presentation and execution are Candace Nelson, author of “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll,” and Chris Miller, CEO of Dutch Miller Automotive Group.

Chef John Wright
Chef John Wright

And, oh yeah, there’s a twist!

While both chefs will have 90 minutes to prepare their meal, a secret ingredient chosen by the public will be revealed 30 minutes into their cooking time that must be incorporated into the finished dish.

Leading up to the competition, the public can make donations online to help support their favorite chef and also cast a vote for what that secret ingredient will be. Money raised for this event helps support the organization’s mission to provide families a home away from home while caring for their hospitalized children. Since opening in 1985, the local Ronald McDonald House has accommodated more than 10,000 families.

For more information and tickets, visit

Readers Chime in on Restaurant Closings

After sharing a reader’s theory that new restaurants opening around town may inadvertently be hurting others, several others chimed in with their thoughts.

That theory, you may remember, is that when new places open in one part of town, they slowly steal customers away from businesses in another part of town, causing some of them to eventually close.

Bacon-wrapped dates from 1010 Bridge
Bacon-wrapped dates from 1010 Bridge

“Yes, it’s a real thing,” wrote Conni Gratop Lewis. “After all, there is only so much money available for discretionary spending at any point in time. It happens in retail as well.”

For instance, she explained, if there are too many jewelry stores in a mall, several will do poorly and eventually close, only to be replaced by another type of store.

“If the population doesn’t go up, this cycle of openings and closings will remain constant,” predicted John Einreinhofer. “You could see that pattern at least back to the mid-2000s, if not earlier.”

Josh Smith agreed: “There’s only so many people to go around for these businesses and restaurants.” He went on to say he’s originally from Hurricane and has gotten quite used to the “fly-by-night nature” of how restaurants are here today, gone tomorrow in that area.

“After a while, it made me not even want to try new places or get invested or excited about them, because six months from now they won’t be here,” he continued. “COVID undoubtedly took a big chunk out of things here, but to your point, this has been going on since before that happened.”

I’d love to believe there’s enough business to support any good new restaurant that comes along, but I realize it’s much more complicated than that. In any event, I’ll continue to do my part to help them make a go of it!

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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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