Small Bites

To the big house

It looks like the Asheville food scene has made an impression on the Obamas. Laurey Masterton, owner of Laurey's Catering and Gourmet-to-Go, has been invited to go to the White House. Masterton is involved with the local chapter of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, a group devoted to "enhancing the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry." The group was recently invited to send a select few to the launch of Michelle Obama's "Chefs Move to Schools" program.

New School: Jack Groetsch shows off the newly restored Tingles Cafe floor. Photos by Jonathan Welch

The program, says Masterton, is "about getting a chef and school paired with each other, the idea being that chefs will help the students learn how to make good food. It's all part of her childhood obesity initiative. It also goes along with having gardens in schools."

It's important for children to learn where their food comes, and what real food looks like, Masterton says. Teaching kids what to do with whole, healthy foods — a skill that seems to be sadly lacking — is crucial to their continued health. "It's about creating awareness for healthy living and eating," she says, adding that children tend to have a greater capacity for learning when they are eating more healthfully.

Masterton is already actively involved in the food education of our local children; Masterton was the force behind the YWCA of Asheville's kids garden, and also works with Susan Shillcock at Isaac Dickson Elementary to bring good food to the kids — and sometimes bring the kids to the food. In her involvement with the school for the past four years, Masterton has taken Shillcock's students to local farms, taught them how to prepare healthy meals — and even taught them about beekeeping, one of Masterton's passions. She hopes to have the chance to talk to Michelle Obama directly about what progress she's been able to make here. "My wish is that I get to say hello to her and tell her that the work that I do at Isaac Dickson is a perfect example of this program that she's getting going."

Masterton hopes that the Chefs Move to Schools program will have a direct impact on our area — and thinks that our local parents might be up to the task. After all, says Masterton, raising kids in a healthy manner starts at home. "Since the program has been announced, people are stopping me at the grocery store and saying, 'We want you at our school,'" says Masterton. "I have to say, 'I'm only one person; what we need to do is get any chef at your school.' The parents and teachers have to be involved, and have to work for it and ask for it … (This program is) an invitation to be connected in this way. It doesn't just happen, you have to work at it, and I'm very honored to be included."

All a-tingle

Are you ready for Tingles Cafe? Lesley Groetsch, who is opening the diner-style restaurant in downtown Asheville with her husband Jack, hopes so. Tingles "is going to be that place that somebody in your party always wants to go to. It's going to be all about the food," Lesley says. She can likely deliver on that promise. She and her husband have a reputation for making commercial splashes.

Old School: A 1934 postcard showing the original Tingles interior and facade.

The Groetsches, who hail from New Orleans, moved to Asheville from when they were hired by Public Interest Projects to inject new life into the Orange Peel. And last year, they opened Sazerac, a restaurant and cocktail bar at 29 Broadway in downtown Asheville. Tingles Cafe will be located next to Sazerac.

The couple is modeling their new eatery after the original Tingles Cafe — an immensely popular restaurant that occupied the same space they are currently renovating. The original diner opened in 1918, remaining a Broadway fixture for 32 years.

"We are in the midst of reviving a historic brand in Asheville," says Lesley. "We have a postcard that dates back to 1934 that shows the original decor, and we're trying to — as much as is possible, and as much as code will allow — recreate that decor." The restoration efforts are so detailed that the Groetsches have spent months searching for the exact style tiles that used to line the floor of the original Tingles. They are currently in the laborious process of laying the new tiles.

What's more, the owners will base their menu upon the original Tingles bill of fare — with updates, of course. "We're using their menu, the original diner, comfort-food fare — as the inspiration for our menu," says Lesley. She reports that the kitchen will incorporate interesting cuts of meat — think pork belly and flat iron steak — into that menu. They also will be featuring plenty of local meats, vegetables — and local beer, of course.

An extensive array of house-made pies, ice creams and soda syrups are planned. "We'll be pairing our soda syrup flavors and unique ice cream flavors to create really special floats and shakes," says Lesley, who cites, as an example, a lavender cream syrup they are developing.

Lesley reports that the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner at least six days a week. "We may close one day a week for the sake of recharging," she says. She also says that Tingles Cafe might eventually expand into breakfast/brunch if there's a demand for it. "It's really going to be an intuitive process," she says. "We're going to start slowly and work our way toward 24-hour weekends, then expand as the brand grows and the population grows and the recession ends — I think all things will kind of converge."

Look for the restaurant to be open in mid-June.

Farm-fresh lunch

White House bound: Laurey Masterton is headed to D.C. to attend the launch of Michelle Obama's Chefs Move to Schools program. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Planning on hitting ASAP's Farm Tour weekend June 26 and 27? You'll need some energy to visit and walk around all of those farms. Fortunately, Slow Food Asheville has a plan. The group will be putting together lunch boxes, stuffed full of local goodies. A few different sandwich options will be provided, including vegetarian, vegan, and kid-friendly options, with sides, dessert and a drink for $10. The proceeds will help to raise money for local members of Slow Food who will be attending the Terra Madre conference in Italy this fall. The lunches will be available at Flying Cloud Farm (www.flyingcloudfarm.net) in Fairview on the Saturday and Sunday of the tour.

Cathy Cleary, Slow Food Asheville board president, offers this delicious preview of the menu: "So far we have West End Bakery bread donated for sandwiches, egg salad from Sunnypoint Cafe, Hickory Nut Gap meat for sandwiches, pimento cheese with cheese donated by Organic Valley and Flying Cloud Farm veggies for garden salad and coleslaw. (Local cookbook author and "Pie Lady") Barbara Swell will be making desserts, probably cookies or maybe some of her famous pie pops. We'll have kids meals with PB&J, and we'll have snacks like a cheese, bread and fruit plate. We'll also have tea and lemonade."

For more information about the Farm Tour weekend, visit asapconnections.org.

Street food!

Bandido's Burritos just rolled to 15 Page Avenue. The cart offers all scratch-made Latin food, with menu selections changing daily. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. According to owner Justin Smudde, the cart is open for lunch from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., "sometimes later depending on business. We're out there every other day, and the tamales are some of the best in town," he says. All of the salsas are handmade as well.

What's more, the prices are very reasonable — at only $3 for a burrito, or large tamale meal deal for $5, this is one lunch that's certain to be kind on any budget. Even better, these value meals are much more wholesome than anything that can be found at a fast food joint. "We get as much organic and local produce that we can find at the farmers market — all Angus beef, free-range chicken, etc.," says Smudde.

To view the daily menu, visit the Bandido's Burrito Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Bandidos-Burritos.

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