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Distillery raises a toast to one of America's boldest cities: Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Are you feeling bold, Charleston?

A little more confident and sassy? Daring, even?

Well, you should, because our good friends at Jim Beam have named Charleston the No. 8 "Boldest Town in America" based on the results of a new nationwide survey conducted by Kelton Research.

That's the Charleston in West Virginia, not South Carolina. (Yes, we double-checked.) In fact, our sister city down south trails us at No. 10. BOO-YAH! Other cities we bested: Washington, D.C., at 11, Denver at 13, Chicago at 19, New Orleans at 20, Atlanta at 22 and Orlando at 23.

And not only did we make the top 10, but Jim Beam mixed up a signature drink to toast our town's boldness.

Called the "Charlie West" - we'll forgive the "Charley" misspelling - the custom-made cocktail features Jim Beam Black Label Bourbon, lemon-lime soda and fresh sour mix poured over ice in a highball glass garnished with lemon or lime.

They also sent me the exact recipe (included this week) so I'll definitely have to try it. Line of duty and all.

Jim Beam's cross-country quest to find the boldest towns in America quizzed more than 10,000 men (sorry, ladies) in the top 100 largest cities nationwide. Exactly what makes a town bold? In this survey, it could be anything from how many of its guys get a tattoo or grow facial hair to how many join the military or paint their bodies to support a team at sporting events.

What they found specifically in Charleston:

  • More than two in five guys have mixed business with pleasure by dating a co-worker.
  • Nearly 40 percent of guys have asked out a complete stranger.
  • More than one-fourth of the guys surveyed here have joined the military.
  • And one-third of the guys would be willing to risk public humiliation and propose marriage in a place such as a restaurant or stadium.
  • And the boldest town in America?

    Spokane, Wash., where they call in sick when they're not (59 percent), arm wrestle strangers (26 percent), date their friends' exes (33 percent) or even date their own boss (9 percent).

    To learn more, visit www.jimbeam.com or www.facebook.com/jimbeam.

    * * *

    I just returned from another fantastic weekend at Stonewall Resort's annual West Virginia Culinary Classic, an event that seems to get bigger and better every year.

    Executive Chef Paco Aceves assembled a team of some of the region's top culinary minds to tantalize the taste buds of hundreds of guests at a variety of activities throughout the celebration.

    Featuring dozens of tables set up around a large ballroom, Friday night's dine-around gave guests a chance to sample dishes from restaurants and culinary schools all over the state.

    It's impossible to pick a single winner among so many fantastic offerings, but a few standouts included pork belly atop pickled honeydew (a fun new take on the classic prosciutto/melon combination) from Ember at Snowshoe, lamb pot stickers from Charleston's Bridge Road Bistro, pepper-smoked salmon from The Greenbrier and a rabbit terrine from Stonewall.

    Dessert options were plentiful as well, and people went gaga over chocolate pots de crème from The Greenbrier, homemade toffee from Graceland Inn in Elkins and a decadent chocolate brownie situation from Gordon Food Service.

    You could pair dishes with a selection of red and white wines (all quite nice) or Yuengling beers. I have to give a special shout-out to two exceptionally nice brews I hadn't tried before: Yuengling's Porter (great dark roasted caramel notes with a softer, creamier finish than most porters) and its recently reintroduced Bock, a malty/hoppy dark amber beer so good it was actually paired with the closing dinner's dessert course, a crowd-favorite chocolate and hazelnut creation. (More on that later.)

    And that was all just on the first night!

    To read more about Saturday's cooking demonstrations, an Iron Chef-like cookoff that I emceed (a la Alton Brown) and the weekend's closing reception and dinner, check out my blog at blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.

    * * *

    More love for the awesome spinach salad at Pies & Pints that I raved about last week - and went back and had again this week . . .

    "I read your article about the spinach salad and I could not agree more," writes reader Robbie Miller of Virginia Beach. "It is the best salad I have ever had. All the tastes marry each other wonderfully. I am originally from Fayette County, where Pies & Pints started. I recently moved to Virginia Beach, and when I read your article it made me miss home and most notably Pies & Pints!"

    And more love for tasty turkey breasts . . .

    "At my home we love turkey, so what my wife does is every now and then she will get a turkey breast and cook it in the crock pot all day," writes Dave Dailey of Scott Depot. "By the time it is ready it pretty much falls off the bone."

    Karen Figgatt agrees: "I just use the crock pot, no seasonings or water, and cook it all day. This way, the glorious flavor of the meat shines without any help. I have a crockpot with a little meat rack that fits the bottom. I have fixed beef roast, pork roast and the frozen turkey roasts this way and they all taste wonderful. No browning or special fixing necessary. I have even put frozen turkey breasts in the crock pot and cooked them this way. All flavor and so moist.

    "It's a really easy way to have a super supper waiting on you in the evening."

    I'm totally trying that. You know, line of duty and all.

    Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also friend him on Facebook as "DailyMail FoodGuy," follow him on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.

    Charlie West

    • 1.5 parts Jim Beam Black Label Bourbon
    • 1 part fresh sour mix
    • 4 parts lemon-lime soda
    1. Mix all ingredients together and pour over ice in a tall highball glass.
    2. Garnish with a wedge of lemon or lime.


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