The pepperoni roll, the humble pastry and smoked meat concoction that was created to feed coal miners, long ago conquered the hearts of the Mountain State from which it came. On Tuesday, though, West Virginia's state food showed America's power brokers that it was a broad cultural and culinary force to be reckoned with, receiving the 2013 CQ Roll Call Taste of America trophy and winning over skeptical Hill denizens, members of the press and others who flocked en masse to the Taste of West Virginia in the Hart Senate Office Building.
The packed reception in Hart 902 featured not just the TOA trophy presentation and kind remarks from the West Virginia delegation, but an array of vendors from West Virginia, including Mister Bee Potato Chips and Mountain State Brewing Co., among around 20 others who brought their wares.
The belle of the ball, however, was the pepperoni roll, and on hand was the original, from Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, W.Va., as well as offerings from Colosessano's and Chico's.
"These are actually good!" said a fellow journalist who counted himself as dubious about the power of the pepperoni roll. His preference skewed toward Colosessano's, which cut their mammoth roll in half for patrons' ease of noshing. About halfway through the Taste of West Virginia's 5 p.m.-7 p.m. run time, the pepperoni roll supply ran out, demonstrating its hold on the curious and homesick.
Indeed, it has been a long journey for the roll, from the mines to West Virginia's gas stations and convenience marts to Capitol Hill, where it beat out the rest of the country's home-state and territorial vittles earlier this month in the Taste of America contest. It's even gotten the treatment from Bon Appetit, which in April extolled its virtues and lamented how difficult it was to reproduce — which is something forlorn West Virginians in Washington have lamented for years.
A few years ago, the tourism people in West Virginia dreamed up an ad campaign that was plastered all over the city promising that the state was "Wild and Wonderful" and a far-away refuge from D.C.'s confines.
At least for one day, wild, wonderful and way out West Virginia came to us.