Sugary confections usually have to wait patiently in the wings during a meal until the appetizers, salad and main course have all had their time in the limelight. Last night, however, dessert was the diva, sharing the stage only with local libations and a touch of jazz at Sweet, an event of the 2014 Asheville Wine & Food Festival.
About 30 area bakers, chocolatiers, pâtissiers, vintners, brewers and distillers lined the corridors of the Grove Arcade the evening of Friday, Aug. 22, offering samples of everything from decadent candies and pastries, to gluten-free delicacies to ice cream to custom-made cocktails.
The lineup featured not only familiar Asheville-area businesses but also plenty of bakers, distillers and vintners from further afield. Catherine Mellon, owner of Sweet ‘n Celi gluten-free bakery, had traveled from Shelby in Cleveland County, N.C., to share samples of her lemon angel-food cake and peanut brittle.
Mellon says her products will be offered in the new Whole Foods Market on Tunnel Road, but other than that they can’t currently be found in Asheville. Her participation in this year’s Asheville Wine & Food Festival is aimed at helping to change that. “We’re really working hard at getting our products into other areas,” says Mellon. ” We’re trying to bring them to the Asheville market.”
Additionally, not all of the event’s attendees were locals. Jacob and Becky Phares traveled from Charlotte to be a part of the evening’s revelry. Becky Phares says the couple came last year as well, and the event is worth the drive. “Everyone’s super nice,” she says, “and the beverages and food are just fantastic. The desserts have been really good this year.”
According to event organizer Melissa Mathews, ticket sales for Sweet were up this year from last year. Attendee Susi Gott Seguret, founder of the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts and a judge for this year’s Asheville Wine & Food Festival Chefs Challenge, says she specifically noticed an uptick from last year in the number of out of town guests at the event.
“I love this event because it provides a chance to have more intimate conversations than the larger [Asheville Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting] event allows,” says Seguret. “And, overall, I think it’s even better than last year. It just gets better all the time.”
The Asheville Wine & Food Festival’s main event, the Grand Tasting and Chefs Challenge, takes place 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23, at the U.S. Cellular Center.
(Mountain Xpress/Hayley Benton)