A Viable enterprise
Thanks to Blue Ridge Food Ventures (www.blueridgefoodventures.org), there's an ever–increasing selection of locally made food items in Western North Carolina. Case in point: Viable Cultures' tempeh and raw sauerkraut.
Tempeh is a soy-based product that's high in protein and beneficial bacteria, with a firm texture and a pleasant, nutty flavor.
Brian Moe, proprietor of Viable Cultures, offers his products — part of what he calls his "palette of fermented foods," at several local restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.
His raw kraut and tempeh, for example, find their way into a tempeh Reuben that the Early Girl Eatery serves. The Mellow Mushroom and the Laughing Seed also carry his products. More accounts are soon to be added, Moe reports.
Currently, the Viable Cultures line is available at several grocery stores, including Greenlife and the French Broad Food Co-op. Starting in late March, Moe's tempeh and kraut will be available at several local farmers' markets: the North Asheville tailgate market, the Wednesday-afternoon Downtown Tailgate Market next to the French Broad Co-op, and the Sunday-morning markets at Greenlife.
The earliest market starts Sunday, March 28, at Greenlife — Moe will be offering his standard local soy tempeh, as well as a specialty, all-organic, soy-black-eyed-pea tempeh. The kraut will be available, as well.
What's more, Moe will be serving cups of his Kombucha tea — a mix fermented with the aid of a mass of microorganisms called a Kombucha culture, aka the kombucha "mother."
Moe reports that he has had his Kombucha mother since 2003. It is, by his account, healthy, resilient and well-traveled. Kombucha, says Moe, is "an interesting pet to have."
For more information, visit www.viablecultures.com.
Raising the Bar
The owner of the latest addition to Asheville's bar scene has a simple philosophy for his new wine bar, 5 Walnut.
"I'm really trying to go with a laid-back, Asheville-friendly neighborhood bar, where all the pretensions you usually see in a wine bar are gone," says Matthew Logan. "I really wanted to create a fun bar" that's comfortable, he says.
Logan grew up outside New York City, but his mother and some of his extended family are from Knoxville, Tenn., and later moved to Asheville. "I've been coming to Asheville a long time," says Logan, who notes that he may be from the big city, "but I was baptized at St. Lawrence," Asheville's historic basilica.
In New York, Logan worked in the food-and-beverage industry, including the Park Avenue Cafe and Smith and Wollensky Steak House. A few years ago, he decided to make a life change and moved to Asheville. He bought the 5 Walnut building and renovated it to include four upstairs apartments and the downstairs wine bar.
The bar, just up from Scully's on Walnut Street, has a homey feel with an original wood floor, a bar and tables topped with maple by woodworker Peter White of Boone (Logan's cousin) and chairs by local craftsman Brian Boggs. One wall of the bar will feature a mural by well-known local artist Ben Betsalel.
The bar will feature "an abundance of quality wines" in the $5-to-$10-a-glass range, says Logan. He plans to carry mead from Fox Hill Meadery in Madison County and cider from McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks in Yadkin County. There will be six local beers on tap, as well, and local bread, cheese, dips and spreads for snacking. "We're trying to keep it simple and local," Logan says.
He's also proud of the team he's assembled to staff his bar: Kristie Quinn, Kristin Welch and Melissa Terrezza are all familiar local faces — "the three friendliest people in Asheville," Logan says. The new bar should be open by the end of March, he adds.
Asheville Bread Festival rises again
On Saturday, March 20, local artisan bakers will showcase their craft at the Asheville Artisan Bread Bakers Festival. The two-part event begins with a bread tasting and sale at Greenlife Grocery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while hands-on workshops and lectures will take place at A-B Tech from noon to 6 p.m. The bread festival, celebrating its sixth year, remains popular with dough-slingers and gourmands alike. According to festival organizers, in previous years the event has been "overwhelmed" with attendees eager to sample what local bakeries have to offer and perhaps learn a little about the art of baking in the process.
The featured baker at the festival this year is Lionel Vatinet, a certified Master Baker from La Farm Bakery in Cary, N.C. Vatinet was the coach for the first American team to take home the gold medal in the world baking competition, La Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. The contest, which is more a peaceable meeting of the baking minds of the world than a Bobby Flay-style throw down, is widely known as the Olympics of baking. Vatinet was the first instructor at the San Fransisco Baking Institute and continues to be a highly respected teacher, consultant and writer.
In addition to Vatinet, the festival will feature presentations by noted bread mentor and author Peter Reinhart. A teacher at Johnson & Wales University, Reinhart is impressed with Asheville's bakery scene. "Asheville and its surrounding area, with a very small population, supports more artisan bakeries than most states," he says. "The bakeries are all small but truly artisan in the purest sense of the word."
Jennifer Lapidus, director of the North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project, and Emily Buehler, author of The Science of Bread, will also be on hand for the festivities. Additionally, more than a dozen local artisan bakers will be showing, sampling and selling their wares to the eager masses.
For bread enthusiasts who want to improve their baking skills, the afternoon workshops and lectures at A-B Tech's Asheville campus are open to the public. Admission is free to all events, but space at the workshops is limited to visitors who have bought a loaf of bread at the morning bread tasting.
For the event schedule, visit the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture's Web site and download the PDF: www.asapconnections.org/bread2010.html.