Did you know that the WNC Magazine Chefs Challenge is still in full swing? The competitions take place every Monday at Cucina 24 on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. In the event, teams from two WNC restaurants go head-to-head over a secret ingredient, a la Iron Chef. The audience gets to be the judge, awarding teams points for style, aroma and use of the secret ingredient. The points are tallied at the end of the evening, and the victor goes on to compete against other winning teams in future heats.
Last year, the competitions took place at the Flying Frog at the Haywood Park Hotel, which closed earlier this year. What could have been a crisis ended up being a boon for the series. Not only is the hospitality at Cucina 24 top notch, owing to the restaurant staff as well as event organizers, but the secret ingredients have been amazing. Chef Canipelli has been assisting in sourcing the foodstuffs that the two culinary teams battle with — so far, fresh-foraged morels, Benton's bacon products, local beer and local eggs have been among the secret ingredients.
What's more, the events benefit FEAST, a hands-on cooking program that focuses on seasonal, local ingredients and education. Children are taught how to plant, harvest, cook, eat and enjoy food that is fresh, easy to prepare, affordable and sustainable. The program is being implemented in public-housing centers, public and private schools and the YMCA and YWCA. FEAST is a program of Slow Food Asheville.
For more information about the WNC Magazine Chefs Challenge, visit wncmagazine.com.
Making it easier to go gluten-free
The Asheville Independent Restaurants association is helping Asheville jockey for position as a gluten-free destination city. On April 28, representatives from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness are conducting a Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) for AIR members and A-B Tech culinary students on the A-B Tech campus.
The training is sponsored by AIR, and provides food service professionals with tools to keep up with the growing gluten-free market.
The NFCA reports the National Restaurant Association named gluten-free dining in the 10 industry trends to watch for in 2010. According to US News & World Report, 15 to 25 percent of consumers are looking for gluten-free products, often for a variety of reasons.
“Celiac disease is an auto-immune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food,” says Whitney Ehret, director of communications for NFCA. “An estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, yet 95 percent remain undiagnosed, resulting in a fourfold increase in the risk of early death and numerous debilitating conditions, including infertility, neuropathy and even cancer … The only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet."
For more information about NFCA and celiac disease, CeliacCentral.org.
Biltmore breakfast roundup
Looking for a good breakfast spot that's open every day? Biltmore Village has a few great options.
Gianni Panini is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. The counter-service shop specializes in paninis, obviously, but also has a selection of pastries and an espresso machine. Want something more substantial? Try the breakfast paninis for $5.95. Choose between eggs, cheddar and bacon or vegetarian sausage and smoked mozzarella.
Gianni Panini is located at 1 Boston Way. For more information, visit giannipanini.net.
Books and Breadboard is located on the other side of Biltmore Village proper, closer to the Biltmore Estate entrance on All Soul's Crescent. This bookshop, open at 9 a.m. seven days a week, is both cute and sophisticated at the same time.
The little kitchen turns out fresh-baked pastries and quiches on a regular basis. Full breakfast dishes are also available, like huevos rancheros, house-smoked trout bagels, French toast, or just a good, old-fashioned eggs, toast and bacon breakfast.
Books and Breadboard is located at 30 All Souls Crescent. For more information, visit booksandbreadboard.com.
And the Corner Kitchen serves breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m. every day except Sunday, when brunch service begins at 9 a.m. The restaurant tweets its breakfast specials, which are always creative, from @cornerkitchen. On the regular breakfast menu, expect to find Hickory Nut Gap chorizo with local eggs, omelets, waffles and a good selection of other breakfast fare that ranges from hearty Southern cuisine to yankee-inspired plates.
The Corner Kitchen is located at 3 Boston Way. For more information, visit thecornerkitchen.com.