• Steven Keith

National magazine in awe of the Mountain State's food scene

When I make claims like 1010 Bridge in Charleston is one of the best restaurants in the state and The Billy Motel in Davis is pretty much the coolest place on the planet, don’t just take my word for it.

A farm dinner at Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County
A farm dinner at Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County

In Travel + Leisure magazine’s September “Food Issue” out now, writer Sheri Castle recounts her experiences eating her way through the Mountain State over eight days (and 1,148 miles!) this past spring.


West Virginia food feature in Travel + Leisure magazine
West Virginia food feature in Travel + Leisure magazine

In an expansive nine-page feature entitled, “An Appalachian Harvest,” the cookbook author acknowledged she had no idea that so much of West Virginia remains untouched.


“It’s a dreamy destination for outdoor recreation,” she said. “Not to imply that nothing goes on indoors — there is amazing food.”


The article’s intro sets the stage right off the bat, saying: “When setting off on a food tour of West Virginia, it’s best to leave your preconceptions at home. From a farm supper to an innovative white-tablecloth meal, you’ll find surprising multicultural roots.”


The pages that follow share glowing words, gorgeous photos and mouthwatering accounts of meals enjoyed all over the state, including hot-from-the-oven pepperoni rolls from The Donut Shop — and more of the same thing again, just minutes later — at Fish Hawk Acres, both in Buckhannon.


Pan-roasted scallops from 1010 Bridge
Pan-roasted scallops from 1010 Bridge

Describing the Bridge Road Shops in South Hills as downtown Charleston’s “upper balcony” (oh, how I love a good turn of phrase!) it was there where Castle discovered what is quickly becoming a poorly kept secret — the fact the 1010 Bridge is one of the best restaurants anywhere. West Virginia or otherwise.


She said as much after devouring Latin-inspired guacamole with chopped boiled egg and pickled ramps; a creamy risotto carbonara with fried shallots, crisp lardons, garden pea compound butter, pea tendrils and a silky sous vide egg with a golden dusting of salt-cured egg yolks in powder form; and a tarte Tatin crisp puff pastry with a medley of roasted vegetables drizzled with apple-cider glaze and peppery Villa DiTrapano olive oil, which has local roots of its own.


The writer stopped at J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in Malden, where she sampled various salts with ripe cherry tomatoes. (“If they put out good bread and mayonnaise,” she predicted, “folks would never leave.)


Hawk Knob Cider & Mead in Lewisburg
Hawk Knob Cider & Mead in Lewisburg

At Hawk Knob Cider & Mead in Lewisburg, she said a tasting flight became a revelatory experience.


“The one I’ve told most people about is the wild-fermented Traditional Hard Cider, which goes through spontaneous fermentations with wild yeast in oak bourbon barrels and ages its lees for eight months. It’s rich, smooth and tastes like a whispered memory of the most interesting apple of your life,” said explained.


“I arrived liking hard cider and wary of mead. I left with a case of both in the back of my car.”


Finally, Castle landed at none other than The Billy Motel in Davis. Regular readers know how passionately I’ve shared my love for this Canaan Valley gem, so I took extra pride in this national “validation” as well.


While there, she sipped the signature Red Needle cocktail created by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and a Blue Meanie made with house-made blueberry shrub before enjoying some of the same dishes I praised a few months ago: a flavorful Turkish kofta meze plate, Brazilian cheese puffs with creamy cilantro sauce and spice-dusted Spanish papas bravas potatoes.


Pepperoni rolls from Fish Hawk Acres
Pepperoni rolls from Fish Hawk Acres

“Dipping, smearing and sopping are delightful ways to eat, and the cooks know their sauces,” she said. “Dining from vintage enameled snack trays made it all the more fun.”


Not just going gaga over the food on her plate, the writer was also just as smitten with the state’s beautiful landscape and its people. That’s no surprise to those of us who call West Virginia home, but it’s still nice to hear when others feel that same pull.


This attraction was particularly strong as she enjoyed a feast of green-tomato hand pies, corn bread, spicy skillet-fried rabbit with shag bark hickory syrup and chow-chow, roasted squash brushed with sorghum and fresh sage, plus lots more spread out on tables at Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County.


“As bowls and plates emptied, we got up to stretch our legs and amble about the farmyard. The ridge line and the setting sun began their late-afternoon matinee. The air was crisp and a breeze made the leaves on the trees shimmy,” she wrote.


“Conversation hummed. People continued their reveries. We were sitting on top of the world.”


It really is a great read and I highly recommend you pick up a copy.


• • •


In similar news, another West Virginia restaurant just received some love in AAA World. In an article celebrating the American diner entitled “Counter Culture,” the magazine singled out three regional “destination diners” it says are worth a trip to visit.


Bramwell Corner Shop & Soda Fountain
Bramwell Corner Shop & Soda Fountain

Our very own Bramwell Corner Shop & Soda Fountain in Bramwell joined Buckeye Express Diner in Belleville (Ohio) and Wagner’s Pharmacy in Louisville (Kentucky) for that honor.


“Hand-patted burgers, homemade ice cream and an atmosphere straight out of the 1950s make this corner diner a favorite,” it said, singling out the WV Mountaineer pepperoni roll here stuffed with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce, and then deep fried. “Wash it down with an ice cream soda from the original gooseneck soda fountain.”


You can check it out at www.bramwellcornershop.com.


A map of the writer's culinary journey across the state
A map of the writer's culinary journey across the state

• • •


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 www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at wvfoodguy@aol.com.

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