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Best meal Food Guy's ever had served locally

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Several readers have recently let me know (in no uncertain terms, I might add) that they missed my annual roundup of the top restaurants, meals or dishes I enjoyed during the past year.

Although I didn't get around to compiling such a list for 2012, I can tell you this, also in no uncertain terms: My best restaurant meal of the year came on the last night of the year.

Not only that, our New Year's Eve dinner at Noah's Eclectic Bistro will go down as one of my all-time favorite meals at any restaurant, during any year. And it almost didn't happen.

The wife and I had finally come to terms with spending the evening in, when a last-minute sitter and table opened up that very day.

Noah's was our first choice, but it took several calls to several places before a last-minute cancellation led us back to where we started - to this small restaurant on tiny McFarland Street that is easily the city's best.

So there we were, sipping wine and looking over a special menu offering a choice of items through five courses. And because Amy and I always order different dishes so we can swap plates halfway through, we both got to sample all 10 treasures that night.

It was phenomenal, from start to finish.

After an amuse, or sample, from the chef, we savored luscious Maine lobster ravioli with chanterelle mushroom ragout, shaved parmesan, crispy pancetta and garlic foam, along with sushi-grade Hawaiian blue prawns quick-seared with fresh lemon.

Next came a roasted beet and goat cheese tower with baby arugula and balsamic glaze, plus a grilled romaine salad with shaved parmesan, peppercorn dressing and grape tomato. The grill on the lettuce was perfect, and those who know me know that I disdain beets, yet I devoured these.

Our third courses were Hawaiian walu - which tasted like it had just been plucked from the Pacific, served with black Chinese rice, julienne vegetables and kumquat marmalade - plus a sensational seared jumbo sea scallop with parsnip puree, crispy parsnip, glazed carrot and lemon jus.

I could have died and gone to heaven at this point, but then God and I would have had words over me missing the next two dishes: succulent beef tenderloin medallions with a gruyere-stuffed polenta cake, caramelized root vegetables and balsamic demi-glace; and boneless Colorado lamb loin with pomme puree, oyster mushroom, confit tomato and port wine jus.

Deceptively simple yet intensely satisfying desserts included chocolate or classic Creme Brulee (duh, classic) and a mini apple tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel.

Chef Noah Miller prepared, without a doubt, one of the best meals I've had anywhere - from New York to Napa, Toronto to Texas, Hawaii to Paris.

Right here in Charleston.

I'm telling you, the man's a genius. And we are SO lucky to have him.

***

With all apologies to Noah, we'll now turn our attention back to something far less "gourmet" . . .

At the same time fellow Daily Mail columnist Suzanne McMinn and I were going gaga over two of our simpler culinary pleasures last week - fried bologna and fried peanut butter and jelly sammiches, respectively - I also received a letter from St. Albans reader David Esque looking for a recipe featuring the same.

"I'm writing to possibly find the WORLD'S BEST (all caps, so you know he's serious) hot bologna recipe!"

He said back in the late '50s and early '60s, "Mom" Smiley, who owned Smiley Restaurant in St. Albans, fixed a great hot bologna.

"I don't know if her recipe is known to the public or not. I've also heard that Andy's in Institute had a great hot bologna," he said. "Maybe you have a great recipe or your readers will share their secret sauce."

Challenge accepted!

OK, readers, anyone have any intel on great hot bologna sandwiches in the area - or a great recipe you're willing to share? If so, give me a shout at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721.

We can't let poor David settle for cold bologna.

***

On a related note, reader Brenda Crites came to my defense when it comes to fried PB&J.

"We have eaten these for over 30 years. I tell people about them all the time, and I get that look of disgust every time," she said. "But I tell them, try it and you will never want a cold one again! One of my favorite foods."

***

Happy National Pie Day!

To help you celebrate, visit The Food Guy blog today at blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy for a few sweet facts on one of America's favorite treats.

There's also a simple recipe I posted there last week for Pumpkin Sage Pasta, along with a photo and video demo showing how to make it. It's not my original recipe, or me in the video, but a good dish nonetheless.

Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Daily Mail. He can be reached at 304-348-1721 or by email at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.


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