A fresh start: Cafe Soleil welcomes two new chefs from the A-B Tech Culinary Department, as well as a revamped and expanded menu. The chefs plan to always use organic meats and free-range eggs and, when possible, local produce. The restaurant will also feature salsa dancing on Tuesday, with instruction available. Cafe Soleil is located at 62 N. Lexington Ave., and is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 350-1140. … Hot stuff: Got a fever for the flavor of a fiery bean-based concoction? If so, don’t miss the 10th annual Maggie Valley Chili Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 27. For more information, see a tasty preview of the event.
Packing it in at Grove Park Inn: On Feb. 3, more than 1,200 people jostled for elbow room and local flavors from 28 restaurants and caterers at the 13th annual Culinary Showcase in the Grove Park’s Vanderbilt Ballroom. Fine wine and local beer were also available, including French Broad’s Winter Night Abbey Style Ale, winner of the Showcase’s first ever juried beer competition. Savoy, for the third year in a row, won Best of Show restaurant/caterer with a fairly lavish display that showed off the restaurant’s new reach beyond the world of Italian cuisine. The Biltmore Estate won Best of Show hotel/resort for the fourth year in a row, and 28806 Deli took home the People’s Choice Gold Award for the second time. Event host Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up with the MANNA Food Bank to donate 750 pounds of post-event food to the needy.
Through the grapevine: According to Martin Pusser, Greenlife Grocery’s Wine Department manager, there has been a recent resurgence of ancient Italian varietals, thanks to a growing interest in rediscovery and enhancement of historical and regional grape species. “Wine makers in Italy are getting back to the roots of real wine-making,” Martin said as he led me through his favorite new/old Italian wines. He added that the Falanghina, which is said to be the “wine of Roman Poets,” is his favorite new tool for steering customers away from the usual Chardonnay and toward more adventurous grounds.