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Chili championship kicks off spicy monthy of food events

There's a veritable smorgasbord of food-related events, cook-offs, dinners, conferences and such in the coming days. Let's dig in!

World Chili Cook-off

Some of the country's best chili cooks will duke it out in Charleston this weekend as the capital city hosts the 46th Annual World's Championship Chili Cook-off Friday through Sunday on Magic Island.

With heated (ba-da-bing!) competitions, live concerts, children's activities and beer on tap, the event promises to be another feather in Charleston's chili cap. The city also hosted the world event at West Virginia Power Park in 2009.

And, of course, you'll have a chance to sample some truly top-notch chili.

Cooks will compete in multiple events, including best salsa, traditional red chili, chili verde (green chili) and for the first time a new "homestyle" category with no restrictions on what ingredients are used. (Traditionally, International Chili Society-sanctioned cook-offs don't allow beans, pasta or filler to be used, just a combination of meat, peppers, vegetables and spices.)

"The cooks are very excited to be coming back to Charleston in October," said Carol Hancock, chief executive officer and owner of ICS. "West Virginia is beautiful in the fall, and Charleston is a perfect-size city to host this event."

Events during the three days include:

* Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - World's Championship Homestyle and Last-Chance Chili Cook-off.

* Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. - World's Championship Salsa, World's Championship Chili Verde and music by Tim McGraw impersonator Adam D. Tucker.

* Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. - World's Championship Traditional Red Chili and music by Santa Cruz.

More than 400 cooks are expected to compete in Charleston after qualifying in local chili events throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. The event is sponsored by the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau, SMART529 College Savings Plan, Central West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, 1-800-GAMBLER, WOWK-TV, H&H Tents and the city of Charleston.

For more information, visit

Farm to Food Conference

West Virginians spend more than $7 billion on food every year, but less than 1 percent of that wealth stays in the state. Organizers of this year's Farm to Food Conference hope to change that by persuading more people to learn about the increased agricultural opportunities that now exist in the Tri-State Area.

For the third straight year, farmers, producers, locavores and foodies will meet in Huntington to learn everything there is to know about growing, producing, selling, marketing and enjoying local foods produced in this confluence of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

This year's conference (Oct. 12-13 at Pullman Plaza Hotel, 1001 Third Ave.) will focus on the food shed within 50 miles of Huntington, an area that encompasses 15 counties across the three states.

In addition to in-depth, discussion-based workshops based on four themes, participants can also choose from among 30 additional session topics including farm to school, tree fruit, dairy regulations, farm branding, vegetable storage, potato production, farm taxation and insurance, seasonal crops, meat processing and more.

But the big fun starts that Friday night with the addition of a Farm Festival, a hybrid farmers/artisan market and food fair. Local vendors will offer their farm products, while area chefs will use local ingredients to showcase tasty dishes for guests. (This event is open to the public outside of the conference, too.)

And putting their money where their mouths are, organizers are making sure that lunch for conference attendees will be sourced from area farmers.

Interested participants may register by calling 304-293-2565 or visiting

Friends of Food dinner

I already have my ticket for the FARM2U Collaborative's second-annual Friends of Food dinner Oct. 29 at Berry Hills Country Club.

Celebrating the culinary heritage of West Virginia, five chefs from around the state will team up to offer a mouthwatering, five-course, wine-paired meal for guests. On the menu . . .

* A reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. will feature wines from Pines & Post.

* Chef Dale Hawkins from Fish Hawk Acres will offer an antipasto salad smorgasboard, featuring gourmet cheeses from Green Glades Creamery.

* Cafe Cimino's Tim Urbanic will prepare a Mediterranean shrimp appetizer, followed by a soup made by Chef Oscar Aguilar from DiOGi's.

* Berry Hills' own Chef Nick McCormick will prepare the evening's entree, filet of beef or veal.

* And finally, students at the Culinary Institute at Mountwest College in Huntington will serve an array of desserts.

Students, you question? Don't. These young stars beat out all of the restaurants at last year's West Virginia Cast Iron Cook-off at The Greenbrier.

The Friends of Food dinner is open to the public, but seating is limited to 100. Tickets must be purchased in advance at or by calling Jack Cipoletti at 304-346-3351.

Tickets are $75 per person, $135 per couple or $500 for a VIP table of eight.


In other local food news, if you read a few weeks ago about the new electronic menus introduced at The Chop House, you might be interested in knowing they now have been rolled out at its sister restaurant, Tidewater Grill.

The Town Center restaurant brought 100 new tablets online for the dinner crowd, and they were as warmly received there as they were at the other end of the mall.

"It went really well," said Eric Arsenault, wine and beverage director for Mainstreet Ventures (the parent company of both local restaurants) and president of Imenutech, the company that developed the tablets.

"They put so much information about the menu and wine pairings right at your fingertips. We really think customers will enjoy the enhanced dining experience."

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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