Business Notepad

Local restaurant grows its own produce

“We’re the only restaurant in Buncombe County that grows our own food,” says Gary Mehalick proudly.

Mehalick, along with his wife, Suzi, own The Golden Horn Restaurant (48 Biltmore Ave.) in Asheville, a Mediterranean-American style eatery they opened three and one-half years ago. In April of this year, they bought a four-acre organic farm in Leicester. Everything they’ve harvested since then has come straight to the restaurant.

Although adding a farm to their operations wasn’t a part of their original vision, “We found this farm and fell in love with it,” enthuses Mehalic. “And with owning a restaurant, it just seemed a good match — to grow our own food.”

The restaurant’s menu has been decidedly influenced by the farm, says Mehalick. The Golden Horn fare is still centered around such Mediterranean staples as feta cheese, Kalamata olives, yogurt, fennel, lamb, fresh seafood and regional sauces and spices, but Mehalick explains, “It’s evolving. We create our menu around whatever is growing on our farm.”

Mehalick lists the harvest at the moment: various squashes, beans, salad mix, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, wild onions, garlic, rhubarb, nettles, purslane and a wide variety of fresh herbs. “Soon we’ll be harvesting heirloom tomatoes, peppers and okra,” he adds. All the flowers in the Golden Horn’s table arrangements come from the farm as well.

“It’s not uncommon for the salad mix or the vegetables you’re eating in the restaurant to have just been picked that morning or the night before,” Mehalick notes.

The vegetables aren’t the only fresh food at the Golden Horn. “One of the defining qualities of Mediterranean cuisine is fresh produce and fresh seafood,” explains Mehalick, pointing out that they have a purveyor who drives to the coast to pick up seafood and deliver it right to their door. “Sometimes the fish has been filleted only 15 hours before it’s on the table.”

Additionally, he notes, “We have a guy, a botanist, who actually picks our mushrooms fresh in the Pisgah Forest — Oyster, Lobster and Chanterelles.”

The relationship between the farm and the restaurant is not just a one-way exchange, notes Mehalick. The Golden Horn composts much of its waste, “from ends of vegetables to the limes and lemons we cut,” he says. “We take it back to the farm, compost it and add it to the soil. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

Mehalick spoke about the science of soil — how “organic is more of a philosophy than a technique” — and about the differences between heirloom tomatoes (“as sweet as fruit,” he says) and the everyday hybrid variety.

The Golden Horn’s decor is an elegant mix of brick work, weathered wood, large mural art, works by local artists and subdued lighting. As for the food, be forewarned: This reporter was barely able to resist groaning out loud in pleasure.

The menu features daily specials, as well as such starters as Mezze Platter, Asparagus and Mache Salad, Mushroom Fricasse, Grilled Calmari and Braised Lamb Salad. Main dishes include Pan Roasted Salmon, Sauteed Chicken Breast du Jour, Lamb Three Ways and Wild Mushroom Spanokopita.

Deserts such as Cherry Four Nut Baklava, Chocolate Cake with Marinated Strawberries and Pistachio Cream, and Mediterranean Style Yogurt with Spiced Walnuts or Blueberry Compote provide a finale on the menu, which also features an international wine list.

The Golden Horn team, notes Mehalick, is rounded out by farm manager Jeff Ellsworth, Chef Roger Clutterbuck, and managers Zac Frye and Laena Mehalick (Gary and Suzi’s 19-year-old daughter.)

The Mehalicks’ plans for the future include expanding their catering services, as well as marketing the farm — which features a labyrinth — as an agro-tourism destination for both educational and entertainment purposes. Other plans for the farm include weddings, parties and other functions. Mehalick also envisions “groups touring the farm, walking the labyrinth, and then coming to the restaurant and eating what they just saw growing.”

Restaurant hours are as follows: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, cafe menu (lighter fare); 3:30-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Dinner: 5:30-9 p.m., Sunday through Thrusday, and 5:30-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 281-4676.

Buy Local Bonanza

The “Buy Local–WNC is Worth It!” campaign, an initiative by Mountain Microenterprise Fund (MMF) to encourage Western North Carolina residents to support local businesses, was launched exactly two years ago.

Today, more than 100 small businesses from Asheville to Murphy have signed on as Buy Local partners, pledging to look for local sources in their own purchasing.

In order to celebrate the anniversary and to “get people excited about shopping locally,” says campaign coordinator Emi Kubota, MMF is coordinating the Buy Local Bonanza, a self-guided local business tour followed by a celebration and prize give-away in downtown Asheville on Friday, Aug. 30.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers can find a Buy Local Bonanza guide — including gameboard and map — in Mountain Xpress (both in the current issue and the Aug. 28 issue). On the day of the event, from 2-7 p.m., visit any 10 of the 15 locally owned shops or restaurants listed in the guide. Kubota describes the tour as “like an art walk but exploring small local downtown businesses instead.”

Shoppers can pick up a sticker at each location as proof of their visit. No purchase is necessary, says Kubota, “although a lot of the stores are offering discounts or promotional deals … to encourage people to take advantage of shopping during this time.”

When shoppers have collected 10 or more stickers their gameboard becomes eligible to win a prize during the prize giveaway at 7:30 p.m. Prizes include gift certificates and specialty items donated by businesses on the tour as well as other Buy Local members. “We have hundreds of dollars worth of prizes available and the odds are fairly good of winning,” notes Kubota.

Downtown businesses on the tour include Anaya Gallery & Big Willie’s Real Gear, Asheville Computers, Bio Wheels Touring, Blue Moon Bakery, ClimbMax, Community Pak-N-Post, Early Girl Eatery, Essential Arts, French Broad Food Co-op, Futon Designs, Gold Hill Espresso & Fine Teas, Issues International, Native Expressions, The Natural Home and True Blue Art Supply.

The tour will conclude with a celebration running 5-9 p.m. in Pritchard Park. Festivities will include the free prize giveaway, as well as music by the high-energy Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Boys, and caterers and restaurants serving up fresh local foods. To-go menu items will also be available from the College Street Pub, Jerusalem Garden, and Tupelo Honey. “A mini festival,” is how Kubota envisions it.

The message behind all this activity — supporting homegrown businesses — makes sense for many reasons, according to Kubota. For starters, buying local keeps money in our local economy. “We benefit our own neighbors by supporting their businesses instead of letting profits run off to some corporate headquarters in Fayetteville,” explains Kubota. “We’ve got profits circulating back into our local community.”

Job creation is another incentive, says Kubota, pointing out that small businesses provide approximately 75-percent of the new jobs in our economy. “Creating jobs here in Asheville and in Western North Carolina is really important when there’s so many plants closing,” she notes.

Then there is the pollution issue. “Air pollution from transportation seems to be increasing every day,”notes Kubota. “Purchasing locally not only reduces shipping and transportation costs, but reduces the need for transportation which brings down the whole level of pollution.”

Finally, says Kubota, buying locally “builds community. Supporting local businesses is at the heart of what community development is all about.”

For more information, call MMF at 253-2834 or check out their Web site (www.mtnmicro.org.)

Celebrating and strengthening the minority business community

Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week is just around the corner. The yearly event offers communities an opportunity to commemorate the contributions of minority entrepreneurs, to learn about their efforts, and to build positive, productive business relationships. MED Week is a national celebration established by President Reagan in 1982. MED Week 2002 takes place Sept. 16-20.

Locally the MED will be commemorated by the following events:

Monday, Sept. 16, 3-6 p.m.: The Asheville Business Development Center (70 Woodfin Place) will hold an open house. Come meet the staff and explore the various programs available to the minority-business community. Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m.: Nationally known speaker and consultant Janice Payne of Hendersonville-based Bradford South & Associates will give a free seminar on “The Art of Communication” at the Haywood Park Hotel (1 Battery Park Ave., Starnes Room) in Asheville. Payne will guide participants toward building stronger customer relationships, writing clearer contracts, and establishing a distinctive presence in the marketplace by improving communication skills.

Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m.: The Minority Business Awards Banquet will take place at Holiday Inn Sunspree (1 Holiday Inn Dr.) in Asheville, following a 6 p.m. reception. Enjoy a festive feast as praise goes out to notable retail, wholesale, service, manufacturing, construction, and health-care minority-business owners, and the minority entrepreneur of the year. Banks will also be recognized for their support of minority businesses. The banquet costs $30 per person and pre-registration is required.

Friday, Sept. 20, 10 a.m.: The Eagle/Market Streets Development Corp. (70 South Market St.) will hold an open computer lab (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and an open house (3-6 p.m.) Get to know minority businesses, meet program staff and view resources including a newly relocated business incubator and a computer lab. Hands-on training will be available to learn computer programs such as Quickbooks, Microsoft Office and more.

Additionally, STEAM-Asheville will sponsor a youth poetry and essay contest. Youth ages 13-18 are invited to submit poems or essays with the theme, “Expanding Horizons: Overcoming Gender and Racial Boundaries.” One winner will be chosen and presented with an award at the Minority Business Awards Banquet. The deadline for entries is Sept. 11. Call Erica Muse at 253-5600 for more information about the contest.

For more information about MED Week or to make reservations for the banquet, call 252-2516.

Wireless provider seeks nonprofits to receive aid

Heads up, local nonprofits: U.S. Cellular is seeking tax-exempt organizations throughout Western North Carolina to which it may lend monetary support. Through its Connecting With Our Communities Program, the nation’s eighth largest wireless-service carrier aims to provide charitable contributions and associate matched gifts to organizations that address the needs of its operating markets.

“U.S. Cellular is committed to building strong relationships with its customers, communities and associates,” says Page Porter, area manager for U.S. Cellular in WNC. “We are eager to support nonprofit organizations throughout North Carolina and encourage such agencies committed to improving community life to apply for a grant.”

U.S. Cellular’s Connecting With Our Communities Program provides monetary contributions and associate matched grants to tax-exempt, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations that focus on the following areas of concern: civic and community, education, health and human services, environment, and arts and culture. Institutions and projects funded through the program must be nonsectarian, nonpolitical and nondenominational.

Nonprofit organizations within U.S. Cellular’s operating markets that have received grants through the program in the past include local branches of American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boy Scouts of America, as well as local food banks, children’s advocacy centers, a horse rescue organization, a handicapped sports association, and an art museum.

Organizations interested in learning more about U.S. Cellular’s Connecting With Our Communities Program or applying for a grant should visit the company’s Web site (www.uscellular.com.)

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