In search of the best biscuits in W.Va.
West Virginians sure dig their biscuits.
And what's not to love about all that warm, flaky, buttery goodness tucked inside a slightly browned crispy cap? Sinking your teeth into a particularly good one is Almost Heaven, indeed.
So I was in hog heaven this past weekend when I had the chance to sample several different batches of homemade biscuits - 16 to be exact! - as a judge at the first West Virginia Biscuit Bake Off at the Autumn Harvest Festival and Roadkill Cook-Off in Marlinton.
I was joined by four others (a chef, restaurant owner, media personality and local politico) as we worked our way through piles and platters to pick a winner based on taste, texture and appearance.
We tasted them all plain first and then enjoyed them with a variety of West Virginia-made jams, jellies and apple butters for another perspective. We were amazed that no two entries were alike.
Some were light and airy, with a yeasty flavor and bread-like consistency, while others were more dense and chewy. Some were rich and buttery while others oozed with the sharp tang of buttermilk. Some used self-rising recipes while others took the traditional, and more tedious, approach.
There were lots of dandies in the bunch, but when all was said and done, all five judges had picked the same top two finishers independently, with most agreeing on third place, too. It was nice validation for us (and the winners) that the best truly rose to the top.
And here's proof positive that we do "eat" with our eyes. The winning biscuit we ultimately selected was the very one we all eyed before judging began. It was simply stunning, a work of art, and tasted just as fine.
Organized by the Pocahontas County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the West Virginia Biscuit Bake Off is believed to be one of the state's first, and one of the region's only, such events. After a great inaugural effort, I predict it will grow leaps and bounds next year.
Now bring on the sausage gravy!
The biscuit bake off took place just down the street from Marlinton's world-renowned Roadkill Cook-Off, an event I attended for the first time even though I've heard people talk about it for years.
Not only did 20,000-plus people pack the tiny town's streets, but you wouldn't believe some of the "delicacies" served.
Buffalo, boar, possum, squirrel, woodchuck, deer and turkey, sure. But also yak, elk, kangaroo and - wait for it - camel. When's the last time you saw one of those creatures meet its demise on the side of the road outside? I mean, outside Saudi Arabia.
Most of these off-the-wall ingredients were prepared in pretty expected ways (soups, stews, chili, casseroles), although this year's winning team took a decidedly non-traditional approach.
The "East Meets West" tent served up roadkill "sushi." I kid you not.
* * *
I received lots of shout-outs for Lola's after last week's love letter, and still more praise for popcorn after a recent column touting its snacktacular appeal . . .
"I love popcorn as a garnish," writes local culinary instructor and renowned foodie Luisa Di Trapano. "It is great in Cream of Tomato Soup, and in Ecuador they garnish ceviche with popcorn! Savory popcorn for these dishes, delicious."
Contact writer Steven Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.