Archive | Farm to table

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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Extended Season: Asheville Farmers Markets Still Bustling

Holiday Asheville Farmers Markets

Good news, farmers market fanatics: Even though the traditional tailgate season has come to an end, a handful of markets are still open for your holiday shopping needs. What’s more, several will operate all winter long thanks to their intrepid vendors and managers!

Asheville Farmers Markets Deck the Halls, Er, Tents

If you’re after that perfect gift, all the fixins for a family meal, or even a Christmas tree, area tailgates have got you covered. They turn into one-stop holiday shops come December. Find artisans selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to candles, and farmers offering fresh-cut trees, meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, fall produce, and more.

If you’re near the French Broad River Corridor, shop West Asheville Tailgate Market, which moved indoors this month to the Mothlight; the market is held Tuesdays from 2:30 until 6 pm and runs through December 23. Asheville City Market is also close by, just on the edge of downtown. This month, it’s in its usual location—the parking lot of the Asheville Public Works building on South Charlotte Street. But manager Mike McCreary is trying something unusual: For the holidays, he invited local hard cider makers Naked Apple Cider and Urban Orchard Cider Company plus local winemaker Addison Farms Vineyard to serve up samples and sell their potables. The market runs Saturdays from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

Where to Buy Local This Winter

After the holidays, Asheville City Market will head inside the public works building for the winter, beginning January 10 (running Saturdays, 10 am-noon). It’ll offer the same local food finds it does the rest of the year: baked goods, jams, meats, cheeses, eggs, and, yes, produce—think hardy crops like apples, potatoes, and greens. In fact, according to Molly Nicholie, program director for the local food nonprofit ASAP (which runs the tailgate), you might find more farm-fresh produce there and at other winter markets than you’d expect.

“There are a lot of farmers who really understand that winter tailgates are great opportunities for them to extend their season,” she says, adding, “There’s a lot more produce at winter markets now than there was a year or two ago.”

Nicholie also reminds that Appalachian Grown partner grocery stores—those committed to sourcing products certified by ASAP as locally grown—have local foods to offer now and throughout the cold months. Look for meat from Hickory Nut Gap Farm and Brasstown Beef at select Ingles. And visit groceries like Katuah Market and French Broad Food Co-op, which, she shares, continue to fill their shelves this time of year with Appalachian Grown veggies like roots and winter squash.

For complete lists of Western North Carolina markets open during the holidays and winter season, including dates and times, visit ASAP’s community website fromhere.org. To find Appalachian Grown partner groceries, browse their online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org. Winter market photo courtesy of ASAP.

 

 

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Drink Up, Thaw Out

Urban Orchard's Hot Cider by Jeff Anderson

The weather outside is already a tad frightful, but that doesn’t mean you should stay stuck indoors by the fire. After all, Asheville’s bars and cafés serve a bevy of beverages that are just as warming and delightful. So get out and explore our beloved French Broad River Corridor knowing that a cup to warm up is never far away.

Drinks in the District

If you’re strolling through studios in the River Arts District (RAD), stop into Clingman Café for piping hot organic, fair trade coffees and other café standards. Tea lover? Visit the tea room at Nourish & Flourish, where they serve an impressive selection of black, green, white, pu-erh, and botanical loose-leaf teas, also organic and fair trade certified.

For spirited sips, pull up a bar seat at The Junction and order one of their spicy cocktails to take the chill off your bones. Several items on the drink menu include fiery, nay hellish, ingredients: Their Apex—a spin on the classic sidecar—stars Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and their Bally Broad incorporates Hellfire bitters, while their Far East warms with wasabi (see recipe below).

The bar + restaurant also features daily drink specials, focusing, says bar and front-of-house manager Courteney Foster, on local and seasonal ingredients. She looks forward to using forthcoming cranberries and blood oranges, as well as spices like cinnamon and nutmeg—expect fun spiked riffs on hot chocolate and cider, too. Junction bartenders can also create custom cocktails; I’ve requested a Hot Toddy there that took all my winter blues away.

Go East West

Speaking of cider, this time of year things also heat up at Urban Orchard Cider Company, just outside the RAD. The cider bar always has at least six taps of their own housemade hard cider. Three are flagships and regularly available: Dry Ridge, Ginger Champagne, and Sweet English. Co-owner and head cider maker Josie Mileke cites their Ginger Champagne’s nice warming finish on the palete, and shares that their Sweet English makes its way throughout the cold months into a hot mulled cider made with brown sugar, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg (pictured above; photo by Jeff Anderson, courtesy of Urban Orchard Cider).

Their other three taps are a rotating seasonal, experimental selection, one of which available now is sure to warm you up. Their Cidra del Diablo, a special for the cidery’s one-year anniversary, is as hot as it sounds: It’s infused with habaneros, along with a little vanilla for some cooling relief. In addition to cider, Urban Orchard also has a full espresso bar and café, serving chai, hot chocolate, drip coffee, and more.

Of course, warming cups can be found all over town. If it’s coffee you’re after, travel our online Asheville coffee trail, and stay tuned for our print Cafe Culture pocket guide.

The Junction’s Far East Cocktail

Ingredients:
1 1/2 ounces vodka (like Tito’s)
1 ounce yuzu sake
1 ounce orgeat (an almond syrup; buy or find recipes for making online)
1 ounce lemongrass tea
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Wasabi powder

Instructions:
Shake and strain first five ingredients. Serve in a martini glass with a wasabi-coated rim. Recipe courtesy of Courteney Foster.

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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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In the Spirit of These Times

tgate

River Arts District Tailgate Market

What a wonderful July 4th weekend this year, right? Thirty percent humidity, crisp mornings and clear blue skies across our region. Summertime fun to be nabbed at every turn. I feel regenerated and hope you do, too. Of course, the season is far from over. Here’s a roundup of midsummer happenings and happenstances I discovered during my time off.

River Arts District Tailgate Market

Even though I was a little late for work last Wednesday, I pulled off Clingman Avenue, scored a perfect parking space and walked over to the River Arts District’s newest farmers market. Immediately, I spotted my friend, Neil, proudly carrying his weekly cache of CSA veggies. I scurried around the booths admiring summer’s early harvest of potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and fresh herbs. Next week, I hope to get my first taste of a locally grown tomato! The fresh vegetables reminded me of the farm-to-table dinner my wife, Candace, and I enjoyed a couple of days earlier. We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary at Grove Park Inn’s EDISON. The local fare, North Carolina Craft ales and splendid mountain views, capped off a beautiful celebration – one that reminded both of us of our honeymoon trek along the Appalachian Trail and Lake Santeetlah.  

Trail Connections

Saturday, I found myself running along a sacred stretch of single track through cove forests, rhododendron slicks and George Vanderbilt’s personal footpath to Buck Spring Hunting Lodge. Earlier, I texted a friend teasing him that I was going on a “soul-searching” run in the High Country. Heading back from Bent Creek Gap on my out-and-back run, I heard some rustling along the heath thicket. Ambling along the dry leaves came the first of two black bears. Once they got wind of me, both bears seemed naturally curious about my presence. Their inquiring looks reminded me of my young chocolate lab’s meddling ways and natural curiosity. Once the young bears parted, I casually walked in the same direction then continued my holiday run to Chestnut Cove.

 

Sleepy Gap Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sleepy Gap Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Reflections From the Viewshed

After my refreshing run, I cruised south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There have certainly been some noticeable changes along the parkway and neighboring national forest since I moved here 25 years ago – much more activity and demand on our natural resources. The Sleepy Gap parking lot spilled over with cars, tourists and day-hikers as I descended a couple of thousand feet in less than 10 minutes. Down by the river, a group of paddlers launched their watercraft into the confluence of Bent Creek and the French Broad. A few paddle boarders appeared to be standing on water as they gently glided downstream. Heading north, I exited onto Amboy Road and took a brief stop at Carrier Park. A couple of locals were enjoying their morning on the lawn bowling green. The park was filled with folks cycling, walking their dogs and enjoying the holiday weekend. I never take days like this for granted, but I have to say that playing outdoors in our region is relatively easy whether it’s a holiday or not. That’s what I’ve always appreciated about our outdoors community that actively engages itself with the mountains, forest and streams. I’ve lived closely by a quote of Edward Abbey who reasoned: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.” Take the grumpy old desert rat’s advice and get out and enjoy it this summer!

So what’s in your back pocket? The Asheville Pocket Guide invites you to share your seasonal adventures with us! Email: ashevillepocketguide@gmail.com.

 

 

Midsummer playlist:

Mr Cody, The Honeycutters
Relatively Easy, Jason Isbell
Fisherman’s Blues, The Waterboys
Four Miles, Town Mountain
A Feather’s Not a Bird, Rosanne Cash
Disappearing Ink, Randall Bramblett
Coast, Eliza Gilikyson

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The Lowdown on Summer Farmers Markets

Summer Farmers Market Display

Spring farmers tailgate markets in Asheville are full of promise: Vendors offer up plant starts to, well, start our home gardens, and they bring a trickle of veggies—from scallions to leafy greens—as weather permits. Summer markets are the promise delivered: They’re filled to the brim with more and more sellers, and farmers’ tables literally spill over with just-harvested bounty. It’s a produce peak you don’t want to miss.

A Taste of Tailgates

With summer officially underway, you can shop for seasonal fruits like blackberries, blueberries, and peaches. Load up on summer squash of all kinds, from crookneck to zucchini. Although the hot months are known for tomatoes, they’re also a brilliant time for beans: green ones, yellow ones, purple ones, long ones, really long ones, flat ones, ones for eating pod and all, ones for shelling, ones for drying, and the list goes on.

Speaking of ‘maters, small quantities can be found from select vendors now, and more are certainly on the way. In fact, a downright deluge of heirlooms isn’t far off. Of course, that’s not all: Also look for new potatoes, carrots, celery, cucumbers, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, peppers, and so much more. If you’re craving it or need it for a recipe, Asheville’s tailgate markets have got it now.

Stay up-to-date about what’s fresh each week via ASAP’s community site fromhere.org; you can even sign up for their emails and get the updates sent right to your inbox.

Local Food News

Have you heard? After three-and-a-half years in the parking lot of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Montford Farmers Market has moved to the RAD, specifically the All Souls Pizza lot at 175 Clingman Avenue. The market is still every Wednesday, and hours remain 2-6 pm. The name, however, has changed (fittingly!) to River Arts District Farmers Market. Mark your calendars for their on-site Grand Opening Celebration, July 9 from 2 until 10 pm.

There’s also news out of Asheville City Market, which sits just on the edge of the river corridor at 161 South Charlotte Street. They’ve launched their City Market Shopper Program. Sign up, and a membership card grants you access to market specials and prizes.

Location, Location, Location

The RAD is also home to the super-new Pink Dog Tailgate Market at 342 Depot Street, which aims to bring farm-fresh food to the area as well as sell art from the district’s working artists. If you want to shop close to the river, be sure to visit West Asheville Tailgate Market, which is a stone’s throw from the RAD at 718 Haywood Road.

For a complete list of WNC farmers markets, visit ASAP’s online Local Food Guide. And be sure to browse our guide to locations other than tailgates offering food, drink, and fun!

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Chatting Cocktails with King Daddy’s (Recipe Included)

King Daddy's Sorghum Old Fashioned

This town is, as you undoubtedly know, a great place to order up a round of local beers—from saisons to stouts. But don’t count out its cocktails. Case in point: the badass bar menu from the newly opened King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle, a stone’s throw from the river on Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Front-of-house manager and drink dreamer-upper Clint Thorman recently let us pick his brain about the restaurant’s cocktail choices. “My goal with the drink list was to be simple, not intimidating at all, and to definitely draw from the classics,” he shared—many of their recipes date back to the 1800s.

Focusing on the classics, he hopes, will keep folks happy with what they’re served. “Too often you pay $12 or more for something that ends up being disappointing for the price,” he said, citing the over-the-top direction the craft cocktail/mixology movement appears to be heading. To make the standards, bartenders use only fresh, quality ingredients: fresh-squeezed juices and no sour mix.

Serving Up Asheville

It was especially important to Clint when designing the list that the drinks “get along with the food.” That’s why there are options like Milk Punch (a milk-based brandy concoction favored in New Orleans as a hangover cure) and other breakfast-friendly and Southern-leaning beverages, like those made with orange and grapefruit juice, coffee, sweet tea, and sorghum (more on the sweet syrup in a minute).

But it was equally imperative to him and owners Julie and John Stehling—the folks behind downtown’s Early Girl Eatery—that the offerings represent home: Asheville. Order up their Knickerbocker, a raspberry rum drink made with raspberry syrup from legendary local berry grower and jam maker Imladris Farm. Also try their Stone Fence, a mix of rum and hard cider from Asheville’s Noble Cider, which is made with local apples.

Menu Musts

The chicken and waffles are all a la carte at King Daddy’s, so you can have fun mixing and matching. If you go for the traditional combo of a Belgian waffle with fried chicken, Clint suggests you pair it with one of their six sparkling wine cocktails.

And don’t miss the Sorghum Old-Fashioned, a Southern twist on the staple—it’s quickly becoming their best seller. Find the recipe below to make at home.

PS:If you’re out and about sampling Asheville’s cocktail culture at other bars and eateries, Clint passed along some words of wisdom: “Dive right in!” Don’t be afraid of combinations that seem like they might not work. In cocktails, unusual often leads to just right.

PPS:The above links for King Daddy’s take you to their website and online bar menu; you can also find them on Facebook.

King Daddy’s Sorghum Old-Fashioned
Recipe courtesy of Clint Thorman

Ingredients:
2 ounces of bourbon (like Evan Williams)
1 bar spoon (or teaspoon) of sorghum syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Lemon twist

Instructions:
Stir together the first three ingredients. Serve with ice, and garnish with the lemon twist!

 

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