Taste of Asheville

Taste of Asheville

Asheville, I hope you’re hungry. The local food scene is booming with bars, bistros and various other eateries, with more popping up each week, it seems. We have authentic Indian food served in exotic, candle-lit dining rooms, fantastic Middle Eastern fare served out of broom-closet sized rooms, and lavish brunch spreads served with sweeping vistas of our fair mountain city.

It’s a buffet of options worth celebrating, and what better way to do so than with a multiday, multivenue fete of food and drink? It’s time for the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association’s annual Taste of Asheville, a food fest of the first order.

The festival runs from Wednesday, Sept. 27, through Saturday, Sept. 30, at restaurants, watering holes and other gathering spots all over town. Aside from all the eats and drinks, there will be cooking demonstration, readings, live music and more. The climax of all of this refined hedonism will occur Thursday evening at the Haywood Park Hotel with the Taste of Asheville Gala, featuring the flavors of AIR-member restaurants, as well as a wide array of beverages to wash it all down.

AIR has planned its most extensive festival yet. The association’s executive officer, Sandie Rhodes, says it’s “our intention to create a Taste of Asheville that more closely represents our local food scene – one that is as varied and appreciated as our mountains themselves.”

Below is a full schedule of Taste of Asheville events, with descriptions provided by AIR and abridged by Xpress. Tickets are required for each of them, and can be purchased at AIR’s Web site (www.airasheville.org). A Taste of Asheville hotline (628-3070) is set up for information only. As far as ticket-purchasing deadlines go, Rhodes encourages people to get on the ball. “When they sell out, they sell out,” she says, but otherwise tickets will be available right up to the day of the event. From Monday, Sept. 25, through Sept. 27, an information booth will be set up in the Asheville Chamber of Commerce building to help with ticket-purchase information.

Wednesday, Sept. 27

Vincenzo’s Ristorante and Bistro: Gourmet Without Guilt

Chef and registered nurse Debbie Briggs demonstrates how to prepare gourmet food in a healthy way. Guests will be given recipes and other helpful information. 10:30 a.m. Demo: $10 per person.

The Lobster Trap: A Clam Bake in your Own Back Yard

Chef Tres shows you how to do precisely what the title suggests. Included in the price is a smorgasbord of shellfish – including lobster – the appropriate accompaniments, dessert and Shipyard beer. Noon-2 p.m. Demo/lunch: $65 per person includes tax.

The Boathouse on Lake Julian: Low Country Cuisine and Cookbook Signing

Enjoy classic Low Country cuisine prepared in true Southern style. Copies of the new Boathouse cookbook will be available. 5:30 p.m. Demo/dinner: $36 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Horizons, Sunset Terrace, and Blue Ridge Dining Room: Progressive Dinner at the Restaurants of the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa

A tour meets in the Great Hall, then proceeds through each Grove Park restaurant, sampling their wares. 5:30 p.m. Dinner: $50 per person, includes tax and gratuity.

Fig: La Tour de France

Travel the 2006 Tour de France course with Chef Bill Klein as he takes you on his own personal journey as a culinary intern in France. A multicourse meal will be paired with French wines. Cyclist and owner Treavis Taylor will join Chef Klein to introduce each course. First seating, 6 p.m., second seating 8:30. Wine dinner: $85 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana: Big Night

Big Night is a film directed by and starring Stanley Tucci about the struggle of an independent Italian restaurant to remain true to fine cuisine, even though it might mean losing some business to restaurants peddling more familiar fare. Fiore’s will present a screening of this movie, as well as an Italian feast complete with wines to compliment. 6 p.m. Dinner: $55 per person includes tax.

Laughing Seed Café: Vegetarian Harvest Celebration

The Laughing Seed offers a feast of seasonal meatless fare featuring house-made, organic and/or locally produced ingredients. Owners Joan and Joe Eckert will be on hand to discuss the evolution of vegetarian dining in this country and the Slow Food movement, and to answer common questions about vegetarian ingredients and preparation. The meal also includes a sampling of organic wines. 6 p.m. Dinner/wine $30 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Cafe on the Square: Dinner with the Katie Kasben Trio

According to Rapid River magazine, Kasben is frequently compared to Ella Fitzgerald. Her dynamic jazz-and-cabaret performance will be complimented by a four-course meal and a special take-home gift. 6:30 p.m. Jazz dinner: $65 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Little Venice Restaurant: Pizza and Beer Tasting

Attendees will create their own unique pizzas using a wide array of toppings, homemade dough and sauce. A sampling of beers will be provided to accompany each creation. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Beer dinner: $25 per person includes tax.

Savoy: Tango Argentina!

A traditional Argentinean barbeque featuring an assortment of meats, salads, empanadas, dessert, music, wine and more. Entertainment will be provided by an authentic Argentinean tango show. The party happens on a farm in north Asheville, five minutes away from Savoy, with the tango performance taking place in a 150-year-old barn. Stop by or call Savoy for directions. 6:30 p.m. Dinner/wine/entertainment: $75 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Charlotte Street Grill: Wild Game and Hearty Wines

A four-course dinner inspired by the season – and featuring the unique flavors of venison and other game meats paired with rich, bold wines to compliment each course – will be presented in the Grill’s historic Victorian dining rooms. 6:30 p.m. Wine dinner: $60 per person includes tax.

ED Boudreaux’s Bayou Barbeque: High Gravity Beer Dinner

This four-course feast includes crawfish beignets, braised beef short ribs and more gems of bayou country. To complement the meal, a variety of craftman beers from Unibroue will be offered. 7 p.m. Beer dinner: $60 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro: Authentic Italian Wine Dinner

Vincenzo’s presents a five-course traditional Italian wine dinner. 7 p.m. Wine dinner: $75 per person includes tax and gratuity.

The Market Place: Pinots from Around the World

A tasting of pinot noir from around the world. 7 p.m. Wine tasting: $25 per person includes tax.

Southside Café: Guest Chef Wine Dinner

A four-course dinner will be prepared by the executive chef of the Biltmore Inn. The meal will be prepared with Biltmore wines. 7 p.m. Wine dinner: $65 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Thursday, Sept. 28

Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day at Tupelo Honey Cafe

This demonstration will be held at A-B Tech’s Culinary School Demonstration Hall. Watch the episode of Rachel Ray’s show featuring Tupelo Honey Café that originally aired on the Food Network, then watch as chef Brian Sonoskus demonstrates how to prepare the sweet-potato pancakes with peach butter and spiced pecans that earned a place in Ray’s heart. 10 a.m. Demo: $10 per person.

A Walking Tour: The Edible Landscape

Enjoy a taste of how Asheville’s top chefs are transforming the local bounty into award-wining good eats with this progressive light lunch. Highlights include appetizers at the Market Place, local trout at the Lobster Trap and Henderson County apples in desserts baked at the City Bakery. 11 a.m-1 p.m. Tour/sampling: $40 per person. Meet at South Grove Arcade Entrance.

Grovewood Café: Lunch and a Lesson

Enjoy lunch at the Grovewood Café, located in the historic Grovewood Homespun Shops of Biltmore Industries. Lunch includes a tour of the historic shops, built in 1901 to help the youth of Asheville learn skills and to encourage them to be productive. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., tours every half hour. Tour/lunch: $18 per person.

The Lobster Trap: Life on the Half Shell

Chef Tres Hundertmark teaches the ins and outs of oysters, as well as how to navigate an oyster-bar menu. Includes a variety of oysters with complementary wine and spirits. Noon-2 p.m. Demo/lunch/wine: $50 per person includes tax.

Team Cooking: Mastering the Intimate Dinner Party at Home

Bouchon’s Chef/Owner Michel Baudouin and his wife Vonciel, culinary events specialist at the Biltmore Estate Winery, demonstrate how to have friends for dinner in a stress-free way. Handouts and recipes provided. This class will take place at the A-B Tech’s Culinary Demonstration Hall. Noon-1:30 p.m. Demo/sampling: $12.50 per person, $25 per couple.

The Boathouse: “Simply Fresh Seafood” Cooking Demonstration

Chef Jeff Lanzaro will demonstrate his culinary talents and share some of the methods used to prepare the stuffed chicken breast on the menu for this day. After learning how to prepare the dish, guests will get to enjoy it. 1 p.m. Demo/lunch $22 per person.

Under Promise and Over Deliver

Chef Joe Scully of the Corner Kitchen teaches simple techniques for putting a dinner party together without a huge amount of work. This demonstration will take place at the A-B Tech Culinary Demonstration Hall. 2-3:30 p.m. Demo: $20 per person.

Fiore’s Restaurante Toscana: Stromboli Unraveled

Strombolis are known and loved as folded over pizzas with all the gooey goodness baked inside the crust. Chef Anthony Cerrato will demonstrate his version of this Italian-American favorite and help you create your own. 2-4 p.m. Demo: $15 per person includes tax.

A Walking Tour: Our Culinary Heritage

On this downtown walking tour, you’ll be introduced to the diverse flavors that have traditionally colored mountain cookery from Native-American, European-American and African-American cuisines. Tour includes greens at the Ritz, biscuits at Tupelo Honey, a vegetarian ode to venison stew at the Laughing Seed and mole poblano at Mamacita’s. Meet at Vance Monument, Pack Square. 2-4 p.m. Tour/Sampling: $40 per person.

Taste of Asheville Gala

This night is where it all comes together at Asheville’s historic Haywood Park Hotel. Enter an elegant atmosphere simply whirling with sumptuous food, delightful wines and brews. Amid an amber glow hinting at fall and the smooth jazz guitar of Chris Rhodes, you’ll sample a taste of specialties prepared by the chefs of 30 different AIR restaurants. At virtually every turn, you’ll find a variety of wine, champagne and beer to refresh and surprise – almost 100 different ones, to be exact. And then, of course, there will be the desserts … 6:30-9 p.m. Food/Wine/Gala: $50 all-inclusive.

Friday, Sept. 29

Meet The Authors: Making Sense of Mountain Food and Drink

Fred Sauceman and Joe Dabney, two of Southern Appalachia’s most celebrated food writers, tell stories of what we eat and why. 10 a.m. Presentation/book signing/recipes: $10 per person.

Grovewood Café: Lunch and a Lesson

Enjoy lunch at the Grovewood Café, located in the historic Grovewood Homespun Shops of Biltmore Industries. Lunch includes a tour of the historic shops, built in 1901 to help the youth of Asheville learn skills and to encourage them to be productive. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., tours every half hour. Tour/lunch: $18 per person.

Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro: A Midday Opera and Luncheon

Vincenzo’s hosts a musical luncheon featuring its award-winning Italian cuisine and the voices of the Asheville Lyric Opera. Noon. Lunch/entertainment: $25 per person.

Amici Trattoria: Antipasti and Panicotta

Owner/chef Heath Miles presents a hands-on demonstration and sampling of two Italian favorites: Antipasti, an Italian appetizer plate, and Pani Cotta, a delectable eggless-custard dessert that literally means “cooked cream.” 6 p.m. Demo/sampling: $15 per person includes tax.

The Corner Kitchen: Asheville Themed Dinner and Beer Tasting

Join Executive Chef Joe Scully and Josh Weeks as they take you on a culinary tour of the Asheville area … figuratively. You’ll dine on everything local … literally. 6 p.m. Dinner/beer tasting: $60 per person includes tax and gratuity.

The Ritz: A Taste of Home

Enjoy a fried chicken and fish dinner with all the trimmings at the Ritz, a restaurant specializing in home-style Southern and Jamaican cuisine. 6 p.m. Dinner/wine/beer/entertainment: $35 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Charlotte Street Grill: Beer Class and British Pub Food

Beer tasting featuring French Broad Brewery Beers paired with traditional pub fare.7 p.m. Class/beer tasting/dinner: $30 per person includes tax.

Chef Michael’s Catering and Bistro: A Taste of Opera

Four-course menu featuring the sounds of the Asheville Opera. 7 p.m. Dinner/entertainment: $65 per person includes tax and gratuity.

The Flying Frog Café: Exotic India

Join the Shastri family at the Flying Frog Café for a night of exotic “Bombay Style” cuisine from India’s culinary melting pot. 7 p.m. Dinner: $45 includes tax and gratuity.

Battery Park Bistro: Martini Mixer

Unravel the mixology of martinis and learn how to prepare liquid delights to wow your guests at home. A buffet will ensure you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach, and live jazz will set the tone. 9-11 p.m. Martini mixer: $25 per person includes tax and gratuity.

Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub: Rock the Night Away

Rock the night away at Hannah’s with the eclectic jazz-funk of Asheville’s own Speedsquare. Enjoy two draft beers (from WNC’s largest selection of beers on tap from the British Isles and Europe) and two appetizers of your choice. 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Snack/beer/entertainment: $20 per person includes tax.

Saturday, Sept. 30

The Grove Arcade: Kids, Ice Cream and Crafts

Kids will learn how ice cream is made and the different types of flavors and toppings that can be used. Then, across the corridor at the Arts & Heritage Gallery, they’ll get to work on craft projects before coming back to Kamm’s and building their own sundaes to eat after class. While the kids are busy, mom and dad can browse the exquisite art and handicrafts at the gallery. 9-10:30 a.m. Class/ice cream: $15 per person.

Little Venice Restaurant: Pizza Chef for a Day (ages 5 and up)

Kids get a chef’s apron, hat and more to properly attire them for making their own special pizza. Ingredients provided include a wide range of toppings, homemade dough and sauce. Then they get to bake it to perfection. After the young chefs finish their creations, they get to eat them! 9:30-11 a.m. Class/giveaways: $15 for first child, $10 for additional children in the family.

Southside Café: Low Country Breakfast Cooking Class

Linda Carter will explain the ins and outs of cooking Southern favorites including shrimp and grits, pimiento cheese and scrambled eggs, and fried green tomatoes. 10 a.m.-noon. Demo/sampling: $20 per person.

The Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa: “Meet the Chefs” Brunch at the Heritage Ballroom

Guests will have the chance to mingle and chat with many of the chefs/owners that hosted events throughout the week. Champagne, wine, beer and a Bloody Mary bar will help wrap up the Taste of 2006! A light brunch buffet will be served, as well. 10 a.m.-noon. Champagne/wine/brunch: $25 per person includes tax and gratuity.

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