ROANOKE, W.Va. -- For years now, I've read and, well, sometimes drooled about the Culinary Classic weekend at Stonewall Resort. It's a hedonistic foodies weekend held annually at the resort in Lewis County. From Friday evening through Sunday morning, attendees taste the creations of chefs from all over the state and watch ice carvers and cooking demonstrations. The weekend culminates in a four-course, wine-paired dinner Saturday night.
The Culinary Classic was this past weekend, and I was one of the lucky attendees. Lucky because the event sold out quickly. A Stonewall official told me he had a waiting list of 80. Because of a previous engagement, my husband and I could only attend Friday night's Dine-Around, and Saturday's breakfast, but we took full advantage of both.
After checking into the resort Friday evening, we wandered down to the ballroom where the party was in full swing. A fun band played at reasonable noise levels so patrons could both enjoy the music and also converse without yelling as they made their way around the ballroom.
Steven Keith, the Daily Mail's Food Guy, and John Brown, the Gazette-Mail's Wine Boy, capably hosted the Dine-Around, pointing diners toward interesting tidbits and appropriate pairings of Gallo family wines or Yuengling beer, both event sponsors.
Established chefs from Ember at Snowshoe, Huntington Prime, The Greenbrier, Bridge Road Bistro, Bridgeport Conference Center, Graceland, Stonewall Resort and Waterfront Place dished alongside chefs and students from culinary programs at Mountain Institute for Culinary Arts at Mountain State University, West Virginia Northern Community College and Carver Career and Technical Center.
Sponsor Gordon Foods offered a choice of mini soft tacos stuffed with either pork and pickled onion or chicken with poblano peppers with an enticing array of homemade salsas. The Gordon team even made its own fresh queso fresco, or fresh cheese.
The nibbles ranged from Ember's chef Brian Ball's simple spoonful of smoky pork belly and Thai pickled honeydew to Stonewall's elaborate spread of tartlets, crostinis, pinwheels, lettuce wraps and meatballs. Not just any meatballs, but meatballs made of locally raised lamp, beef and pork. Stonewall's team was led by chef Paco Aceves.
Many of the chefs supported the farm-to-table concept, and used as many locally grown and produced products as possible.
Chef Tim Goots at Bridgeport Convention Center made dumplings filled with spicy (and local) pork and drizzled with sriracha chili sauce contrasted nicely with the Asian slaw on which it sat.
Graceland Inn's chef Tim White's Maytag blue cheese tartlets topped with shaved beef tenderloin in a port wine sauce and tray of buttery English toffee were almost overshadowed by the eye-catching display of carved watermelons beside him.
Carvers from Columbus Carving Artist stacked intricately carved watermelons to create the image of a dragon. The carvers used the melon's natural green, white and red layers to add color.