Archive | Events

Dig In, Y’all: Discover the Asheville Small Plate Crawl

Asheville Small Plate Crawl DishesMost would agree that if there were any downside to living in or visiting Foodtopia®, it would be the impossibility of enjoying every fantastic dish and drink it has to offer: The website exploreasheville.com lists nearly 250 eateries. But Laura Huff and Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, the Asheville Small Plate Crawl’s co-presenters, are out to help you taste as many of the city’s culinary creations as possible.

From February 24 through 26, more than 20 participating restaurants will offer low-priced, small-plate menus for the fourth annual event—menus will consist of five to seven items ranging from three to eight dollars. Select restaurants will also be part of a Biltmore Wine Crawl, offering small plates that have been made or paired with the perfect Biltmore wine. Prizes are up for grabs and awarded based on the number of eateries you visit; the Grand Prize will go to a crawler who makes it to 15 or more restaurants. (There are additional prizes for those taking part in the Biltmore Wine Crawl.)

New For 2015

To be eligible to win, you must check in with each restaurant you visit. Doing so will be easier than ever this year, says co-presenter Laura Huff, blogger behind the popular site carolinaepicurean.com: “I’m thrilled to announce a brand new, custom web app. It’s fun, fast, and accurate.”

All you have to do is download a free QR reader to your mobile device and scan when you pay at a restaurant. Each scan checks you in and enters you into the prize drawing automatically. If you’re crawling from place to place with a group, when anyone in your party purchases a plate, everyone gets to scan the code for validation. If you don’t have access to a mobile device, ask for a “Takeaway Card” at every restaurant; the code on each card can be entered later via your computer.

The Crawl’s Catching On

Although folks have been crawling in Asheville since 2012, the event actually began a few years before in Hendersonville. Huff got the idea back in 2008: “It was born of a wish to help restaurants recover from the market crash,” she says. Since then, it has been well received and expanded by request, which Huff notes is both humbling and fantastic at the same time.

Small Plate Crawls are currently being held in six areas in the region, and four more may be added in 2015. To help with growth, Huff has recently partnered with two culinary powerhouses: Nichole Livengood (Gap Creek Gourmet, NicLive PR) for South Carolina events, and Susi Gott Séguret (Seasonal School of Culinary Arts, Asheville Truffle Experience, Asheville Wine Experience) for North Carolina and Tennessee events.

Plan to Go?

If you plan to crawl this month, visit ashevillesmallplatecrawl.com for all the details, including a list of prizes and each restaurant’s special menu and crawl hours. You can also follow the Asheville Small Plate Crawl on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information. Note that reservations are discouraged.

To make the most of your experience, Huff shares these three tips: 1) Bring cash. Credit cards are accepted, but she reminds that paying with cash is much faster and will help you get to more restaurants. 2) Tip generously; servers are working harder for smaller checks. 3) If you’re crawling in a very large group, Huff and her team ask that you try not to occupy seats for too long, especially if only one or two plates are being ordered.

For information about other crawls, visit carolinaepicureanevents.com. Keep your finger on the pulse of WNC’s food scene at carolinaepicurean.com. Photo courtesy of Asheville Small Plate Crawl.

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Tis the Season to be Counting

 

Braving the cold for the CBC - Amy Kovach photo courtesy National Audubon Society

Braving the cold for the CBC – Amy Kovach photo courtesy National Audubon Society

This year marks the 115th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC.) Frank Chapman, an officer in the fledgling Audubon Society proposed the first Christmas Bird Count in 1900 as an alternative to the traditional “side hunt,” where groups would choose sides and go afield, guns a-blazing and whoever came home with the greatest number of dead animals was declared the winner. Twenty-seven participates held 25 CBCs that day and a total of 90 species were recorded. The 2012 CBC had 2,369 counts with 71,531 participants and included counts in Canada, Latin America and the Pacific Islands. The number of birds tallied in that 113th annual CBC was 64,133,843.

CBCs are the grandfather of “citizen science.” And while citizen science may be sloppy science, it has also proven to be valuable science. There will not be 50,000 bespectacled scientists in white lab coats followed by their statisticians evaluating and recording all the nuances observed afield. There will be you and I and some birders better than we and some birders not so good. Not every birder participating in a CBC will be able to differentiate between a female sharp-shinned hawk and a male Cooper’s hawk. But 99.999 percent of CBC participants do know what a robin looks like and a cardinal and a chickadee and most can count. And learning about population and distribution trends of common birds is just as important (if not more so) as noting how many European wagtails show up on this year’s CBC.

With more than 110 years under its belt, the CBC is the longest running ornithological database on the planet. Scientists at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, which has joined with Audubon to make CBC data more relevant and more accessible note that, “The CBC’s current relevance is as a comparative historical source of information on bird changes, a coarse means of capturing large bird changes, and a conservation-oriented recreational pursuit by birders. There are better ways of measuring changes in wintering bird populations. On the other hand, since the CBC system is already in place at no cost to anyone but those who participate and over long periods of time interesting trends are documented, the running of CBC’s by birders should not be discouraged.” Add to that a bibliography of scientific papers and articles that lists well over 250 titles that have incorporated CBC data and it becomes apparent that the science aspect of this citizen-science project, albeit primitive and unwieldy is of significant value.

CBCs help track the range-expansion of introduced species like Eurasian Collared doves. These birds began appearing on CBCs in the late 1970s. We had our first on the Balsam CBC back in 2005. creative commons photo

CBCs help track the range-expansion of introduced species like Eurasian Collared doves. These birds began appearing on CBCs in the late 1970s. We had our first on the Balsam CBC back in 2005. creative commons photo

But it was the citizen or social aspect of the CBC that got the ball rolling back 115 years ago and still sustains it. The camaraderie of being afield with like-minded souls probably rousts more CBC participants out of bed on those cold winter mornings than any thoughts of scientific contribution. And when darkness begins to envelope count day and participants gather to share lists and swap stories of the ones that did or didn’t get away it’ll be that camaraderie that takes center stage. And it’s that camaraderie that’s integral to conservation.

We didn’t create DuPont State Forest or preserve the Needmore Tract because we read, in some scientific journal, about the need to preserve biodiversity. We protected these areas because we were connected to these areas. We had experienced them. As the number of people who experience CBCs or other citizen-science projects increases the number of people who become connected increases. And the more people who are connected to more wild places, means more wild places will be protected.

For more info and a schedule of local and regional counts visit North Carolina Christmas Bird Counts and South Carolina Christmas Bird Counts.

 

 And, in the spirit, please enjoy:

 The Night Before Christmas Bird Count

by Don Hendershot

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas Bird Count and all through the house

Was the whirr of computers and clicks of the mouse.

Maps and notes were clipped to the copy stand with care

In hopes the long-billed curlew still would be there.

Compilers and counters tossed in their beds.

Visions of grosbeaks and palm pilots danced in their heads.

The GPS lay nestled and ready on the map;

Spotting scopes, binoculars all covered with lens caps.

Then all of a sudden, quietness — not clatter.

No mouses were clicking, what could be the matter?

On the screen was nothing, not even a flash.

How could it be — the computer had crashed.

There it was, quiet, not even a glow.

But wait, a laptop on the table below.

Quick type in birdsource.org and see what appears.

Whew, trogons and titmice, flickers and finches all are still here.

So reassuring to know; what a great trick,

Technology and nature merged with a click.

BBSes list CBCs, too many to name,

Bits, bytes and modems all part of the game.

On checklists, on palm pilots, listers were listin’.

On PCs, on Macs, ordinary citizens

Were lurking and threading, following it all.

Cyberspace packed as thick as the mall.

All the birds will be counted, most before they fly.

The rest will be IDed as they take to the sky.

Field guides perused by more than a few.

Sibley’s and Peterson and National Geographic too.

No source will be spared and that is the truth.

Wingbars and eyerings will be noted as proof.

Whistles and chirps and other bird sounds,

Properly noted and all written down.

Birders afield in boats and afoot

Will first count and then prepare to input

Data on species, data on numbers, in fact

Data all about birds; their presence — their lack.

Data on birds that eat seeds and eat berries;

Birds that nest in trees or in eyries.

Data spread across the WWW, high and low,

Just click on a hypertext and away you go.

There are cables and wires and plugs with teeth.

Some go over, around, or come up from beneath.

Small screens and big screens, the size of a telly,

All sitting on tables that wobble like jelly.

And placed carefully and safely away on a shelf,

A wireless computer one can use by oneself.

Into the field the counters are led,

Armed with technology from their feet to their head.

With Swarovski, Leica and Zeiss hard at work,

Birders count birds with barely a jerk.

Then off to Compaq or Dell or Macintosh they go

To key in their data under the computer’s soft glow.

When suddenly amid all the bells and the whistles,

A first year goldfinch clings to last year’s thistle.

And suddenly high tech or low tech, even no tech’s alright

It’s you and a bird sharing the same winter sunlight

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are regular winter visitors to Western North Carolina - Lewis Scharpf photo courtesy National Audubon Society

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are regular winter visitors to Western North Carolina – Lewis Scharpf photo courtesy National Audubon Society

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Get On the Bus for an Asheville Halloween

LaZoom Asheville Halloween Tours

You know that the French Broad River Corridor is an awesome-packed stretch of river and land for outdoor adventures, delicious dining experiences, and art excursions—after all, you’ve traveled it with an Asheville Pocket Guide in hand! But did you know it’s also the “birthplace” of one of Asheville’s creepy (and comedic!) characters? Legend has it that Hellena Handbasket, a LaZoom haunted guide, has her origins right in the river.

If you want to hear the full spooky story, you’ll have to ‘get on the bus’—the iconic purple one you see and hear around town—this October. LaZoom offers their Haunted Comedy Bus Tours year-round, but there’s no more perfect time to hop on than now. It’s an Asheville Halloween experience like no other.

“This time of year is one of our favorites, and our haunted guides really get in the spirit and fun of it,” shares LaZoom’s Anne Mallett. “Something about Halloween and the excitement and involvement of the community really brings a whole new level of fun to the tour!”

LaZoom’s Haunted Haunts

Supernatural stops include a secret location that’s home to a real ghost and the site where Zelda Fitzgerald died. According to Anne, the story behind the mental hospital where Zelda lived and perished in a fire is “pretty creepy,” but she’s quick to point out the tour is very much comedy based and not terrifyingly scary. That being said, though, the tour isn’t for kids. You must be 17 or older to take a spin in the hilarious, haunted wheels.

If you’re old enough and ready to laugh and scream as you learn about Asheville’s mysteries and tales of murder, deceit, and scandal, Anne suggests you book your tour now. For Halloween, they do add a number of additional tour times between October 15th and the 31st—they also beef the show up a bit—but tours this time of year consistently sell out. Costumes are encouraged.

You can buy tickets and learn more online at lazoomtours.com. You can also purchase tickets by calling their office at (828) 225-6932 or stopping by their ticket booth at 14 Battery Park Avenue.

Happy Asheville Halloween!

 

Ghouly grub: LaZoom’s haunted tour departs from behind Thirsty Monk in downtown, putting you a stone’s throw from oodles of Asheville’s amazing eateries. Head downtown early then get your fill of food and fun.
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Cider, Pies, Oh My! It’s Apple Season in Asheville

U-Pick Apple Season in Asheville

I know what you’re thinking: You’re jumping the gun, Maggie. It certainly doesn’t feel like fall outside, and the calendar shows there’s still some summer left. Just enjoy the lingering heat, and let’s talk apples later.

I’m not any more ready for winter to be here than you are. But, I don’t want you to miss a minute of the excitement of apple season in Asheville, which has already begun. In fact, the best time to pick apples in the area is upon us, and tickets for one of our biggest apple-related events go on sale soon. Here’s the scoop:

Prime Time for U-Pick

U-pick orchards offer you the chance to head into their fields and harvest apples yourself. While open from late summer through early November, there’s a sweet spot in their u-pick season: mid-September to mid-October. The majority of varieties ripen during this time, and trees are full of apples. Wait until Halloween, and they’ll already be picked clean.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any apples available then. Most u-picks offer apples already harvested—by the bushel, peck, or pound—through November. Of course, you can purchase their already-picked apples now, too. Many orchards also offer fresh cider, fried apple pies, and other apple specialties.

The majority of u-pick apple orchards in our area are located near Hendersonville, although there are a few in Buncombe and other WNC counties. But you don’t have to leave Asheville to find local apples. Many growers bring their fruit and value-added products to in-town farmers markets, and some supply Asheville Appalachian Grown™ (AG) partner grocery stores.

Browse AG u-picks, farmers markets, farm stands, and groceries via ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org. Note: ASAP’s Farm Tour takes place during the height of u-pick apple season, September 20-21, and will feature Hendersonville apple grower Justus Orchard. Get details and tickets at asapconnections.org.

Hard Cider Headlines

Urban Orchard Cider Company brings Hendersonville’s apples to the French Broad River Corridor via their local hard cider. The bar and eatery near the River Arts District recently started serving breakfast, daily beginning at 9 am; learn more at urbanorchardcider.com.

They’ll be participating, along with numerous other local and regional cideries, in the second CiderFest NC slated for November 2. Last year’s cider-centric event sold out fast, so organizer WNC Green Building Council (WNCGBC) will move this year’s fest to a larger venue: the WNC Farmers Market. Despite the extra space, it’s still expected to sell out. Be sure to get your tickets as soon as they go on sale September 15 at ciderfestnc.com. All proceeds benefit the WNCGBC.

For more on Asheville’s food scene, browse our Food, Drink, Fun section of the guide!

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Go For the Food: August Events in Asheville

Asheville Wine & Food Festival

Looking for Asheville food events to attend this month? You’re in luck: August is so jam-packed with them I can’t even begin to list each one here. In fact, let me not waste any more time and just get right to some highlights:

Mountains to Sea Market Supper

On August 19th, West Asheville Tailgate Market will host their 11th market supper, a family-style meal primarily sourced from tailgate vendors. Chefs Eric Kang and Dan Silo of The Admiral will prepare the multi-course, mountains-to-sea-inspired meal, with locally crafted microbrews and beverages included. All proceeds benefit the growth of the neighborhood market. Details: westashevilletailgatemarket.com.

Asheville Wine & Food Festival

Don’t let the singular sound of its name fool you: The festival is actually three events rolled into one. ELIXIR, a Prohibition experience, kicks things off on August 21st. In true Prohibition fashion, the location will remain a mystery until just days before. The menu isn’t a secret, however. It promises cocktails of the era featuring the region’s premier spirits and created by the region’s premier bartenders—who’ll be competing in a mixology competition that you get to watch.

SWEET comes next, on the 22nd. Asheville’s bakers, chocolatiers, pâtissiers, wine vendors, brewers and distillers will line the corridors of the Grove Arcade and offer sips and snacks. And the Grand Tasting caps it all off on the 23rd. More than 125 wineries, breweries, restaurants and chefs, farmers and others will serve up samples. When you want to take a break from sampling and shaking hands with famous foodies, you can watch the Asheville Scene Chefs Challenge Finale, which crowns the festival’s top chef. Info: ashevillewineandfood.com.

BaconFest

The name says it all. Attend on August 30th to enjoy and vote for Asheville’s best bacon dishes, and to try an exclusive bacon-infused beer from host Highland Brewing. There will also be music and activities for “little piggies.” Is your mouth watering thinking of all the meaty goodness? Don’t delay in purchasing tickets. Last year, the swine soiree sold out in only 10 days. Tickets: 1059themountain.com. PS: Bacon-inspired dress is encouraged.

Culinary Tours

A number of guided dining and drinking tours give you a plate’s-eye and pint’s-eye view of the city called Foodtopia. While Asheville food tours take place year-round, I thought they were worth a mention here, since August is the last chance to take your summer vacation or staycation. If you’re not familiar with the guided experiences available, exploreasheville.com has a great list. While you’re there, check out the whole Foodtopia section of their website, which got a facelift last year.

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