QUESTION: WHAT could be better than to be in a building stuffed to the brim with the best food some of the Ohio Valley's restaurants have to offer?
Thinking we might have been dreaming, the Buds had to pinch each other more than once while at this year's annual Taste of the Valley, presented by the St. Clairsville Rotary Club. This year's event was held for the second time at the James Carnes Center and featured a whopping 18 of the valley's favorite food vendors dishing up their specialties.
In the interest of fairness - and due to the fact that the Buds have much to say about every single morsel they ingested - we'll be dividing our review of the event into two parts! So, in no particular order, here is our take one the first nine ....
This stop on our food tour featured a variety of tasty sandwiches, a selection of their delicious cookies (hello raspberry cheesecake!) and both meatballs with marinara sauce and meatballs with barbecue sauce. The sandwiches featured were turkey and ham, the Sub Club and the Italian B.M.T. The barbecue meatballs were a tasty addition that the Buds really enjoyed.
Sandwiches, pastries and their famous coffee (we hear it's the best!) were on the menu. One Bud happily sampled the turkey bacon club. The bread was fresh, the toppings plentiful and the honey mustard added a delightful zing to the tasty sandwich. The coffee came in very handy later when the Buds hit the dessert tables.
Bethesda's Market & Catering:
Well we've said it before and we'll say it again - Chef Mark Glass makes the best salmon in the land. If you've had it before then you'll probably agree. If you haven't tried it - you are missing out on something amazing! Garnished with cucumbers and both caper and horseradish sauces, the mild flavor and perfect texture are truly a marvel. Well done, Chef Glass!
Ye Olde Alpha:
They left the dead animals at the bar and showed up with what proved to be quite the award-winning menu, garnering top awards for Best Appetizer, Best Entree and Best Overall Performance.
The Wheeling eatery prepared Greek pork shanks, roasted vegetable polenta and two flavors of sauteed shrimp. The slow roasted pork shanks were falling-off-the-bone tender and topped with plenty of feta cheese. Consider our minds blown! The slices of polenta topped with grilled veggies was both creative and delicious, and the roasted red pepper shrimp was to die for. The awards were well deserved!
This stop featured ham, turkey and chicken salads with a variety of crackers to spread them on. The Buds gladly sampled the ham and turkey salads, even though we already knew we loved them. Because that's how we roll. The sweet and smoky meat salads are incredibly flavorful, and not overly wet or dry, as we can think of nothing worse than an overly-saucy deli salad.
The folks at Honeybaked Ham didn't skip dessert either, as they also offered a variety of their yummy cookies. Bud Em snagged herself a chocolate macadamia nut cookie. Divine!
Chef James took his job very seriously, offering the crowd a huge spread of his wonderful southern-inspired cooking. In fact, the Buds could easily have spent an entire evening at this one vendor. No joke!
They are served up their award winning - and cleverly named - Slap Yo' Mama Chili, as well as sweet corn bread, Caribbean turkey, Carolina barbecued chicken, his famous fried catfish, cole slaw and more! Everything the Buds sampled was delicious, especially the Slap Yo' Mama Chili - which is also fun to say!
The Buds must not have been the only ones impressed by Chef James, as Cafe Burress won the title of Most Creative Chef.
The place for smiles had the crowd smiling with their ever popular grilled stickies. These gems are pieces of their famous sweet and cinnamon loaf grilled in butter and topped with a warm honey sauce and vanilla ice cream. If that doesn't put a smile on your face nothing will!
For those wanting something with a spicy kick, they also brought along their buffalo chicken dip. The warm and cheesy dip was a hit with the Buds.
Kirke's Homemade Ice Cream:
Ice cream lovers in attendance were surely thrilled with the selection of homemade ice creams that Kirke's brought along. The Buds were immediately drawn to the tropical decor where folks could get not only a dip of their favorite flavor, but also a fresh raspberry smoothie. We'll have two, please! The refreshing concoction was just what the Buds needed to bring on their second wind!
Kirke's island theme took the prize for Best Display.
Tina's Sweet Celebrations:
The folks at Tina's sure know how to treat a gal! They served up a bevy of beautiful desserts, including a raspberry lemon cake, tiny brownie bites and fancy cake pops. Simply delectable!
Apparently, we weren't the only ones who thought so as Tina's picked up the prize for Best Dessert.
Watch this space next week for our take on the other nine participants in the Taste of the Valley!
The Buds may be reached at tastebuds@ timesleaderonline.com.