CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- FestivALL, the annual Charleston summer celebration when the city becomes a work of art, is exploding this year in biblical proportions with the culinary arts.
Just as they say an army travels on its stomach, so will every FestivALL goer, with dining choices at food events in different sections of the city, spread over several days. There will be something for everyone.
It all begins June 20, a day combining FestivALL and the Sesquicentennial jubilee with the sharing of the official birthday cake, honoring the state's 150th year.
"There is an inedible decorated replica of the Capitol as a cake centerpiece, surrounded by the cakes that were baked for public consumption," said Chelsea Ruby, executive director of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission. "The cake will be on display in the Great Hall of the Culture Center and it's from there we'll hand out slices."
Cake distribution schedule is from 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, 2 to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.
"There are 5,000 pieces of cake allotted for Thursday alone," Ruby said. "We will have prepared enough to replenish as needed."
Saturday is a foodie trifecta where the second half of the 2013 Vandalia Gathering joins FestivALL and the Sesquicentennial.
The focus of a Vandalia baking contest early Saturday afternoon is pound cake, cupcakes and maple-flavored cookies.
If you miss out on the birthday cake, a bonus of the bake-off is a free cakewalk, estimated to begin at 6:15 p.m. It allows lucky winners to enjoy whole serving-size portions of all the contest's baked goods until everything is gone.
Twenty food vendors, always a Vandalia Gathering staple, will once more be participating on the Capitol grounds.
At the same time, Saturday brings the 15th Smoke on the Water Chili Cook-Off, a FestivALL happening, to its location at the state Capitol.
Tantalizing aromas will beckon hungry chili lovers, urging a stroll through the tents that line Kanawha Boulevard. Sampling of the hot and spicy concoctions begins at 11 a.m. with purchase of two $1 tickets. Proceeds will benefit HospiceCare.
If Smoke on the Water supplied you with an overabundance of heat, the perfect place to chill is at the Civic Center on June 23 at Taste-of-All Charleston.
It's the city's unsurpassed food fest, the venue to savor unique flavors of the valley all in one location. It's being presented by Mardi Gras Casino & Resort and co-produced by Generation Charleston.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 21 food and beverage vendors will be in the North Hall to satisfy all cravings. The move from the Taste's original headquarters in the South Hall is just for this year.
Tyler Murray, executive chef at the Charleston Marriott BrickSalt Bar and Kitchen, outlined their Taste menu. "It mainly consists of all house-made ingredients, like the brioche topped with house-smoked sea salt, pulled mozzarella, and roasted tomato jam in the pepperoni roll, cilantro slaw and pickled lime pico de gallo in the tilapia fish taco and the salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel sauce in a purchased miniature waffle cone."
Murray considers the Taste-of-All a perfect proving ground. "The pepperoni roll isn't on BrickSalt menu, but the taco and ice cream are. I'm putting it out for feedback to gauge whether to add it at the restaurant."
He pointed out that fresh food is closer than Marriott diners might think.
"Kitchen supervisor Phillip Bricker and I planted an herb and vegetable garden in discarded palettes on the hotel roof opposite the covered pavilion.