Monday, August 15, 2011

Field Trip: Asheville Wine & Food Festival

This weekend, I took a road trip over to Asheville to their Wine & Food Festival. I went expecting lots of good wine and food. I found that and so much more!

There were lots of North Carolina wineries pouring, but a number of distributors as well. My favorite wine of the afternoon was the Alexander Valley Vineyard's Redemption Zin. I tasted a flight of the Alexander Valley Vineyard's Zins: Temptation Zin, followed by Sin Zin and ending with the biggest of the three, Redemption Zin. As my brother-in-law pointed out, I knew all along I would like it the best, but it was fun going through the process.

Food-wise, the morsels that have stuck with me include Roux Asheville's meatball slider with caramelized onions (does that sound like my kind of food or what?). It was one of the more substantial bites of the afternoon -- a good thing when wine-tasting. I loved Lusty Monk Mustard's Altar Boy Honey Mustard, a grainy, spicy honey mustard unlike any I've ever tasted. And then there was the very yummy cheese spread from Hendersonville's Never Blue Tapas. I would have happily eaten a cup of it! I tasted a very fine Soppressata and had a nice chat with the charcutier. I am so bummed that I lost the guy's card! I've tried, but can't remember or figure out his name or the name of the farm. I told him about Charcutepalooza. He in turn told me about the upcoming Whole Animal Butchery for Chefs and Farmers two-day workshop co-sponsored by Asheville-Buncombe Community College Culinary Arts Program and NC Choices. How cool does that sound?

Next was the gourmet food store set up by Blue Ridge Food Ventures. After talking with the organization's director, Mary Lou Surgi, I was really wowed at the work that they are doing as a food business incubator, helping fledgling food artisans, farmers, natural products manufacturers, bakers and caterers establish businesses. Blue Ridge Food Ventures offers a federal standard compliant 11,000 square foot facility with a commercial kitchen and natural products manufacturing equipment. The organization is a project of Advantage West, Western North Carolina's Economic Development Group. What an incredible opportunity for entrepeneurs with ideas for great food products but limited means! A number of their success stories who have moved beyond the incubator stage had their own booths at the festival, including the above-mentioned Lusty Monk's mustards, delicious jams made by Imladris Farms, and UliMana's lovely truffles that you would never guess are vegan.

And finally, at the end of the afternoon, I recognized Chef Dennis from More than an Mount Full (soon to be "A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis") and Sommer from A Spicy Perspective. Dennis introduced me to Adam, a professional food photographer who blogs with his wife Cheryl at Picture Perfect Meals, and lives just up the mountain from me in Linville.

An afternoon well-spent.

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