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Taste of Home coming to town

Looks like I'll cash in on my 15 minutes of fame during the Taste of Home Cooking School, an event I've been asked to emcee this Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.

I'll be kicking off the festivities, introducing guests and, good Lord willin', entertaining the crowd between cooking demonstrations. I also get to give away some really cool prizes.

During the past 20 years, nearly 5 million folks have attended Taste of Home cooking shows nationwide, and last year's first visit to Charleston sold out with a whopping 738 in the audience.

This year's show - which runs from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Civic Center Little Theater - promises to be even bigger.

While I'm manning the mike, the man behind the pan will be Taste of Home culinary specialist Michael Barna, who has earned an associate degree from the Culinary Institute of America and previously served as executive chef and general manager at one of New York City's top gourmet food stores.

He also conducts online cooking classes, has competed in a variety of national recipe and cooking contests, and even once worked as a "culinary hand model." Just sayin'.

He's a pretty fun guy, too, so come prepared to laugh.

"I love being on stage, entertaining and sharing my love of cooking," said Barna, who's been cooking since the ripe old age of 13. "It's all about bringing the family back to the table."

His love of family food can be traced back to his grandmother's Hungarian cooking, which he describes as "comfort food from loving hands."

Barna believes good food comes from the work you put into it, noting that "the best things come from the 5 percent you put in after you think you're done." But he enjoys simple pleasures, too, admitting Cap'n Crunch cereal is a guilty favorite.

To enhance this year's show, organizers have teamed up with the state Department of Agriculture to present the West Virginia Food Fest, a separate daylong exhibit area featuring local food and drink vendors - many offering free samples and products for sale.

That event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Civic Center's South Hall, will also feature a children's cooking corner, bookstore, wine alley, baker's lane and other activities.

Cost of the cooking school is $15, which includes a goodie bag and admission to the adjacent West Virginia Food Fest. Admission to the food fest only is $5. (Call the Civic Center at 304-345-1500 for details.)

Whether you come for the show or not, be sure to stop by the new West Virginia Food Fest. It's great to support our own home-grown companies.

And did I mention the samples?

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  • One of my favorite local restaurants is kicking off the first of two big seafood celebrations this month with Lobster Fest, running Sept. 11 through Oct. 22.

    During that time, guests at Tidewater Grill can enjoy a 1 1/4-pound steamed live Maine lobster served with drawn butter, choice of side dish, bleu cheese coleslaw and fresh bread for $21.95, plus tax and tip.

    The offer is good while supplies last and may not be

    combined with other specials or discounts, including the restaurant's "free birthday dinner" deal.

    Then on Sept. 20, the restaurant will host a Shellfish Shell-a-bration!

    Starting at 6:30 that evening, the outdoor event will feature peel-and-eat, jerk-spiced shrimp; a salad of baby greens with candied pecans, bleu cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette; an assortment of shellfish including mussels, oysters, clams, Jonah crab claws and whole Main lobster; sides of red-skin potatoes, corn on the cob and fresh-baked break; summer berry shortcake dessert; and an assortment of domestic bottled beers including Shock-Top, Magic Hat and more.

    The cost is $69.95 per person, plus tax and tip.

    Reservations are recommended for Lobster Fest and required for the Shellfish Shell-a-bration. Call (888) 456-3463 or visit

    The Town Center restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

    Contact writer Steven Keith at or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at


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