West Virginia does fall flavors best

By Candace Nelson - 5:00 PM

Here's a column I wrote for the Charleston Gazette-Mail about how fall flavors really shine in West Virginia:

Fall is just around the corner: boots, flannel, football and leaves.

Or, in my world: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger.

While everyone else is resurrecting their scarves from storage in anticipation of cooler temperatures, I’m salivating over the Curried Carrot Bisque, the Venison Tenderloin with chanterelle mushrooms and the caramel lattes about to come my way.

I’m not saying fall flavors are the best ... but actually, yes, I’m saying fall flavors are the best. And no one does fall better than West Virginia.


Take Beckley Chef Jon Lester, for example. The head chef at Dobra Zupas is already serving his Curried Carrot Bisque — full of beautiful cinnamon — as we speak.

“I love to cook in accordance with the seasons,” Lester said. “So, if it’s cooler, we go with heartier dishes. In the fall, we work to balance that sweet and savory and really use things like carrot, acorn and butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, rutabaga, and apples. The Curried Carrot Bisque is something that I just tried recently, and it’s been a big hit — especially during the cooler, rainy days.”

The vibrant orange soup both looks and tastes like fall with carrot, cinnamon and ...

The nutty, slightly sweet nutmeg flavor pairs well with root vegetables, as well as seasonal drinks. Think eggnog — or better: lattes.

Elizabeth Morton, co-owner of Vandal’s Kitchen in Fayetteville, lets the seasons dictate the restaurant’s daily coffee special. Fall brings with it nutmeg, maple and caramel-flavored lattes for the restaurant.

Morton said the coffee, which the shop is known for, is especially inspired by what is seasonally available — whether that’s at the local market or right outside.

“We draw on ingredients from the garden and see what we can find to infuse into our specials,” she said. “In the fall, we will have more nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.”

Hill & Hollow in Morgantown is creating its autumn menu with wild game, foraged mushrooms and other earthy dishes — many of which will see the addition of clove.

“Fall ingredients do seem to be easier to work with,” said Marion Ohlinger, owner and chef. “The cooler weather brings back the appetite that gets lost in the summer heat, and hearty comfort dishes are the simplest to cook. For us folks raised on farms, late fall is butcher time, so there’s also that aspect.”

Ohlinger will serve his traditional favorite of Venison Tenderloin with Foraged Chanterelles. And while clove is good friends with cinnamon or nutmeg, it has a strong savory bond with red meat.

“I’ve been working on some nontraditional ideas that are evocative of autumn,” he said. “In a few weeks we’ll be debuting a dish made of toasted alfalfa broth — yep, made from hay — with rabbit and hen-of-the-woods ravioli; the flavor of the broth is similar to an earthy chamomile, but the aroma is pure autumn in Appalachia.”


Pumpkin, honey and apples all have (at least) one thing in common: They’re better with ginger. The slightly spicy and warm flavor is often sprinkled atop drinks or desserts for a little extra somethin’ somethin’.

Lester crafts a poached Fiji Apple Pie Shot with brown sugar, apple cider, rum, amaretto, ginger, whipped cream and crumbled pie pieces that you eat as you drink it.

“It’s warming, it’s fun to eat and, most importantly, it’s delicious,” Lester said.

He added that while there are few flavors specific to Appalachia — like paw paws — how chefs in the area work with fall flavors is unique. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger play prominent flavor roles, which create these warm and comforting dishes.

“What’s really important is not that West Virginia chefs have different ingredients to work with, but how they incorporate them into a set style. Appalachian fall cooking is a real taste of home, and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

No, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Candace Nelson is a marketing and public relations professional living in Morgantown. In her free time, Nelson blogs about West Virginia food culture at CandaceLately.com. Find her @Candace07 on Twitter or email Candace127@gmail.com.

Dobra Zupas’ Curried Carrot Bisque

1 yellow onion (diced)

6 stalks celery (diced)

3 pounds carrots (shredded)

3 pears (skinned and diced)

4 cups orange juice

1 cup brown sugar

vegetable stock

large handful fresh chopped basil

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 tablespoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons yellow curry

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Saute all vegetables and pears in butter until lightly browned.

Add basil and lightly wilt.

Add orange juice, brown sugar and enough vegetable stock to cover vegetable mixture.

Add all dry ingredients and Sriracha.

Simmer until carrots are nice and soft, occasionally adding more stock if it starts to dry out.

Puree with immersion/stick blender until smooth and add heavy cream.

Salt and pepper to taste. More curry is optional depending upon preference.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/life-food-and-dining/20160911/wv-culinary-team-west-virginia-does-fall-flavors-best#sthash.KRwWRegA.dpuf

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