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Tasting party always fun

For the last 12 years, one of the best parts of my job has been taking part in the annual News and Sentinel Cookbook Contest tasting party where renowned area food experts judge what dish wins the annual cookbook contest.

This year was the 59th annual event and saw the category judges narrowing down the 395 recipes submitted by 53 contestants to the top five in each of the seven categories. Those 35 cooks are asked to prepare their dish and present it in its most favorable setting at the tasting held at the Williamstown Woman’s Club site in Tomlinson Park.

The grand-prize winner of the previous year’s contest is asked to join the judges in the tasting. Longtime judges for the event are Kiki Angelos, restaurateur and accomplished cook; Patty Christopher, a food columnist for the newspaper; and accomplished cook Sarah Jalbert. Fred Ponko with the culinary staff of the Blennerhassett Hotel and 2010 cookbook contest winner serves as the master of ceremonies and keeps the process moving, going through the many recipes within about a 2.5-hour period.

The sad part of this year’s cookoff was last year’s winner, Joseph Sprouse, 13, of Parkersburg, was unable to attend the event for which he was so excited to take part. The newspaper’s cookbook coordinator, Sharon Coleman, has asked the teen to join the judges at next year’s event.

As in past years the contest saw some longtime entrants in the finals and there were a couple of newbies who joined the ranks and saw their recipes take category victories.

I have to admit, every year I seem to have a favorite of which I make way too much of a pig of myself in consuming what usually is a dish I shouldn’t be eating in the first place because of its high carb and calorie count. This year it was salad category winner Cherry-Pineapple Congealed Salad by Janet Atkinson of Williamstown. I knew it was way too good and just couldn’t take my plate away from it.

I also made a couple trips to the bowl for the soup category’s second place winner of Broccoli, Cheese and Noodle Soup by Debbie Martin of Mineral Wells. I hope my wife clips out the recipe and gives it a try.

The main dish second place winner of Chicken Marsala Special by Betty Carmichael of Vienna also drew my attention and had me wishing I hadn’t eaten so much of my salad favorite so I could have eaten more of the chicken dish.

Besides the efforts of Coleman, the judges and Ponko, the event would not be as successful without the newspaper’s own Amy Phelps and Jolene Craig, who were joined by Phelps’ father, Allen, and Coleman’s sister, Brenda.

As in past years, the grand-prize winner will be announced in the Cookbook edition, which will be inside The News and Sentinel on the Sunday (Nov. 24) before Thanksgiving. The winner will receive a $500 gift card from Foodland, and category winners will receive cash prizes.

In case you missed the results in Thursday’s News and Sentinel, the winners were:

COOKIES:

* First place is Christmas Angel Cookies by Mrs. Joseph C. (Rosalie) Snyder of Parkersburg.

* Second place is Rosalie’s Holiday Cookies by Lanita Vicars of Mineral Wells.

* Third place is Hoot and Holler Cookies by Ralph Boone of Sistersville.

APPETIZERS:

* First place is Buffalo Chicken Dip by Sheila Dye of LeRoy, W.Va.

* Second place is Five Cheese Spinach and Artichoke Dip by Vickie Davis of St. Marys.

* Third place is Gorganzola Truffles by Stephen Jones of Walker.

SOUPS:

* First place is Black Bean Chicken Chili by Heather Hatcher of Parkersburg.

* Second place is Broccoli, Cheese and Noodle Soup by Debbie Martin of Mineral Wells.

* Third place is Potato Sausage Soup by Priscilla Mullinex of Harrisville.

SALADS:

* First place is Cherry-Pineapple Congealed Salad by Janet Atkinson of Williamstown.

* Second place is Southwest Pasta Salad by Tammy Morrison of Newport, Ohio.

* Third place is Spinach Penne Salad by Anna Dean of St. Marys.

MAIN DISHES:

* First place is Cheesy Tomato Bacon Pie by Linda Dally of Parkersburg.

* Second place is Chicken Marsala Special by Betty Carmichael of Vienna.

* Third place is French Toast Breakfast Casserole by Stephanie Bennett of Parkersburg.

BREADS:

* First place is Pumpkin Caramel Cheesecake Turtle Bread by Kelly Gobel of Parkerburg.

* Second place is Sweet Potato Muffins by Betty Winters of Elizabeth.

* Third place is Praline Apple Bread by Jean Hilton of Parkersburg.

DESSERTS:

* First place is Key Lime Ice Box Cake by Janet Heron of Vienna.

* Second place is Creamy Raspberry Pie by Karen Weekley of Washington, W.Va.

* Third place is Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce by Loretta Howell of Vienna.

Congratulations to all … and I’m already looking forward to eating too much at the 60th annual tasting party!

Contact Jim Smith at jsmith@newsandsentinel.com