Tag Archives | local food

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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Autumn Trip Tips, Part III: Go West, Brew Enthusiasts!

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You’re definitely a local if…you’ve visited all of the 18 breweries in Asheville and Buncombe County. But now it’s time to spread your wings and experience the unique charm and treasures of other WNC Breweries. Our Oktoberfest pick includes the three sweet craft beer breweries of Haywood County. Just a short and scenic 30-minute drive west of Asheville, the town of Waynesville offers a great weekend outing full of adventure, shopping, fine restaurants and locally crafted beer! Nestled in the shadow of towering Cold Mountain, the town’s historic district and Main Street begins the brewery tour. If you’re looking for the perfect combination of food and drink, start the day with lunch at The Tipping Point Tavern. The tavern started brewing and serving its own beer in 2012, and it has a great selection of pub fare served by a friendly staff. Our first pick-of-the-day is their Hiking Viking Blonde. I stopped by last month and had an interesting seasonal Blueberry Blonde. Perfect! To ensure you have enough fuel for the day’s tastings, invest in their Grandma’s Oatmeal Cake.

Sammy Cox shares an autumn brew with Frog Level Brewing Co.'s owner/brewer Clark Williams

Sammy Cox shares an autumn brew with Frog Level Brewing Co.’s owner/brewer Clark Williams

Next up, and only a short drive or hop down the hill, is the historic Frog Level area of town. This revitalized railroad district includes a delightful collection of shops, galleries, antique stores, an artisan coffee house and Frog Level Brewing. As soon as you walk in the restored brick warehouse you’ll feel right at home. Inspiring, wide-angle landscape photography and local art greets you as you walk into the friendly space. You’ll feel like a local “level-head” as soon as you order up and start talking with the servers, brewers or patrons.  Check out Lily’s Crème Boy Ale for a “light and refreshing” second beer of the day. Be sure to step out on the shared back porch (Panacea Coffee Co.) and patio overlooking Richland Creek. One of the best brew porches in Western Carolina!

To complete the Waynesville Brewers’ Tour, place your last call at Bearwater’s Brewing . The award-winning brewery offers a variety of small batch brews including several of their 2013 Carolina Championship of Beers. I recently enjoyed one of the silver medal finalists, the Shining Creek Ale, inside their cozy taproom. Be sure to sample some of their barrel-aged beers and their collaboration beers with other local breweries. For more info about WNC Breweries and self-guided tours, visit: A Guide to the Craft Breweries & Pubs of Western North Carolina.

 

 

Brew to view outing: Old Butt Trail/Shining Rock Creek/Shining Creek Trail/Big East Fork. Highlights include streamside trails, high country views and house-size boulders along the Big East Fork. This is a strenuous hike but like the beer with its namesake, a smooth finish to the day! 

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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

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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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