Small Bites

Piece of cake: Amanda Krueger outside of her Wall Street baking supply shop. Krueger and staff are hosting a benefit for Japan on Saturday, April 2. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Bake it Pretty raises money for Japan

Bake it Pretty opened in early fall of last year in downtown Asheville. The Wall Street store carries kitschy-cute cake decorating supplies — think whale cookie cutters and little beer stein cupcake toppers. "We used those last year for Oktoberfest cupcakes," says owner Amanda Krueger, holding a handful of miniature bicycles and some bunny ornaments. "They're really trendy right now."

Though the shop doesn't currently offer cupcakes, it will soon. Krueger points out that there really isn't an example of a trendy cupcakery in the area. "We're about to start evolving really soon," she says, adding that customers have asked for workshops and classes, which the shop will soon begin hosting.

But first, Bake it Pretty will host a bake sale on Saturday, April 2, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., for the areas of Japan devastated by the recent earthquake and resultant tsunami. French Broad Chocolate lounge and several other local business will chip in to donate sweets. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Peace Winds Japan.

There will be a table for kids and adults to make paper cranes — the goal is to fold 1,000 to send to Japan. "This is a countrywide event so the cumulative effort should be impressive," says Krueger. "I'm really excited to be a part of something that should really make a dent."

Bake it Pretty is requesting bakers to donate their goods to the bake sale, volunteers to help out at the shop and "lots and lots of customers," says Krueger.

Bake it Pretty is located at 58 Wall St. Send volunteer offers to bakesaleforjapan@bakeitpretty.com or info@bakeitpretty.com. For more information, visit bakeitpretty.com.

A twist on olives

Olive and Kickin’, a balsamic vinegar- and olive oil-tasting gallery, recently opened at 32 Biltmore Ave. in downtown Asheville near the Fine Arts Theater. What should you expect to see in such a gallery? While the answer seems obvious, you may be surprised by what you find there.

The traditional balsamic varieties the shop supplies are of good quality — they're all aged and craft-made. The infused oils and vinegars are also excellent. For those who regard retailed infused oil and vinegar as unnecessarily expensive gimmicks marketed toward home cooks looking for an easy way to get creative, this store may change your mind.

First, the oils have all been made from olives pressed as recently as a couple of months ago. Some olive oils come from single-olive crushes — there is a mild, pure oil pressed from picholine olives that would be perfect for a light, summery salad dressing.

Other olive blends range from mild to robust, and some are infused with other essences. A blood-orange oil, for example, is mild and (thankfully) not colored to reflect its chief flavoring. There’s also a vegan butter, made with 100 percent olive-oil base and flavored to taste like the real thing.

The oils don't stop with the olive; the shop also offers walnut, toasted sesame and a white-truffle oil, made with pure truffles, with no artificial flavoring or ingredients — the best I've tasted outside of a restaurant in this area yet.

As a point of interest, the owners have labeled each oil with its polyphenol count, reflecting the amount of antioxidants in the oil. Owner Karen Kourtendick, a former engineer, opened the shop with her partner Veronica Cavallaro, partially to promote the health benefits of olive oil. She hopes to carry more literature in her store about the subject.

The balsamic vinegar selections are varied and unique. Flavors include a coconut white-balsamic, a strawberry balsamic and a pomegranate variety that the shop recommends drizzled over duck, lamb or ice cream.

Kourtendick enjoys tinkering around with her own blends of oils and vinegars. She brought out a small cup of espresso-balsamic blended with the blood-orange oil as an example — the age of the vinegar gave the blend the viscosity of motor oil. While Kourtendick says that she'd have no trouble drizzling such a blend over ice cream, I couldn't help but think how nice it would be with a steak salad.

Kourtendick, who says the shop is her passion made manifest, currently carries more than 40 oils and vinegars in the store. Olive and Kickin' can also host private tasting parties. For more information, visit oliveandkickin.com or call 251-1117.

Jack of Hearts to open soon

The owner of downtown landmarks, the Laughing Seed Cafe and Jack of the Wood, is opening a third establishment in Weaverville. Joe Eckert’s new (and much-anticipated) Jack of Hearts Pub and Restaurant is set to open in early April right on Main Street. Jack of Hearts will be something like a cousin to Jack of the Wood, serving the much-loved Green Man brews, along with locally sourced classic American fare.

Eckert has redone the former Weaverville Firehouse building (circa 1917), adding sycamore bars, a sound system and performance area and a large outdoor deck. Jack of Hearts will be located at 10 S. Main St. 

Going gluten-free

Asheville's Gluten Free Fair is back and bigger than ever. The gluten-free awareness, education and food sampling event will take place at the Biltmore DoubleTree Hotel on Saturday, April 30, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Ingles Dietitian Leah McGrath says that the new location will make room for more panel discussions and speakers, helping the Gluten Free Fair focus more on education than in years past. "We're really excited to have this bigger venue, to have the opportunity to have more speakers,” she says. “That was really in response to some of the requests that we had last year. People wanted to be able to learn more at the Gluten Free Fair, not just sample."

But, says McGrath, there will indeed still be food — and plenty of it.

"This year, we have about 50 vendors signed up, which includes a good variety of both national and local vendors," she says. For food businesses, expect to see Glutino, P.F. Chang's, Frankie Bones, Posana Café, World's Best Carrot Cake and GalloLea Organics.

But the offerings don't stop at the edible. McGrath says that some people have adverse reactions to gluten in makeup — who knew? For that reason, gluten-free cosmetics will be represented at the fair. And for recipes, Malaprop's will be in attendance, offering cookbooks with information about gluten-free meals and the details of celiac disease.

Gastroenterologists from Mission Hospital will also be present to talk about different aspects of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, from diagnosis to treatment. Laurie Steenwyk, a dietitian from Pardee Hospital, will give a presentation on how to have a gluten-free kitchen. "That will be appropriate, not only for the individual, but also for the restaurant kitchen,” says McGrath. “So many restaurants in Asheville are trying to offer gluten-free items, but how to do it safely so that you minimize the risk of cross-contamination can be a question," she says.

McGrath says that participants in the fair generally include people who are curious about trying a new diet, as well as those with celiac disease and other ailments purportedly improved by the elimination or reduction of gluten. One of those ailments, she says, could be autism.

"There is anecdotal evidence that some forms of autism seem to respond to elimination of both gluten and casein from the diet," says McGrath. "Behavioral issues decrease and they're able to interact more when they're put on these special diets. We have seen parents of autistic children come to the fair before because of that."

McGrath notes that the fair's organizers have considered situating vendors according to the amount of gluten in their products, since there are so many levels of gluten-sensitivity. "We're going to make it clear to people where to go to find the vendors that utilize a gluten-free facility to eliminate any chance of cross-contamination," she says.

McGrath attributes the explosion of attendees to the Gluten Free Fair — up from 120 in the first year to an expected 1,000 this year, to proper diagnosis. "Nationally, we're seeing an increase in recognition of celiac disease. For a while, it was going frequently misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Also, they're now finding different levels of sensitivity and intolerance."

And yes, McGrath says, there is the fad factor. "For a while, you'd hear about this or that actress going on a gluten-free diet, almost like a cleanse or a version of the Atkins diet," she says. "I guess the fad component is still out there. And I guess that's OK. It benefits the people out there who really need it the most, medically." The only treatment available for celiac disease, says McGrath, is the gluten-free diet, and the more food options out there, the better.

The Biltmore DoubleTree is located at 115 Hendersonville Road in Asheville. To learn more about the Gluten Free Fair, visit ingles-markets.com/ask_leah/glutenfreefair.

— Mackensy Lunsford can be reached at food@mountainx.com

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