For the past year, Asheville-based trio Red June has crisscrossed the country in support of its 2010 release Remember Me Well. But in addition to spreading its brand of Americana music, Red June’s Homegrown Tour has also spread the word about WNC’s local food scene — via copies of ASAP’s Local Food Guide, bumper stickers and more — as well as the importance of supporting local agriculture.
“Most people can get behind local food, because it’s not a partisan issue,” says Natalya Weinstein, the band’s fiddle player, who likes using her position on the stage to promote worthwhile causes. They found overwhelming support on the road; they received a great response in Massachusetts and Colorado towns already known for their dedication to local food, as well as in Southern towns less known for their local food scenes. In Nashville, Tenn., in particular, Weinstein says the band played a house concert that featured an entire local menu to go along with the music. In nearby Hickory, N.C., the Unitarian Church where they played served local apples and baked goods and, after the band’s set, concert attendees chatted with them about the downtown Hickory Farmers Market.
Now that Red June is back home and playing Jack of the Wood, Asheville’s thriving local-food movement will certainly take center stage. And the multi-sensory experience of sound and taste will continue.
In honor of their return, and winter squash month in ASAP’s Get Local initiative, Jack of the Wood and its sister restaurant, Laughing Seed Cafe, will feature squash specials specifically for the show, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 9:30 p.m. But, that’s as much as we know.
“There are surprises,” says Laughing Seed chef Sandy Krebs. She can whet our appetites a bit, sharing one of her recent squash specials that was a big hit: Local organic delicata squash stuffed with quinoa, bulgur wheat, local organic greens and local feta from Three Graces Dairy, served with local organic creamed kale and crispy polenta triangles. “We’ll be repeating that one for sure!”
In addition to delicata, Laughing Seed has been serving an Italian heirloom squash variety called Long of Naples this fall. The heirloom, grown by Fork Mountain Farm in Madison County, has quickly become Krebs’ favorite. “It’s so buttery, flavorful and easy to peel and work with. It’s perfect for gnocchi!” Read on for one of her favorite seasonal gnocchi recipes.)
Jack of the Wood has already used several types of winter squash this season, too. Chef Jason Brian says the squash shows up mostly on their specials menu in bisques, gratins, stews, salads — you name it.
Weinstein hopes the specials will feature her favorite winter squash varieties. “I really like butternut and kabocha, probably because they’re both sweet,” she says. She’s happy, of course, just to be playing there. “The food is delicious, and it’s such a community-oriented venue.”
Community is important to Joan Cliney-Eckert, who co-owns the eateries with her husband, Joe Eckert. “Jack of the Wood, and now Jack of Hearts in Weaverville, are huge supporters of local music, and it’s always great to partner with local bands for a cause,” she says. “Ultimately, we’re a local pub in the true sense of the word, and the community knows we’re here to help.”
And it’s clear that local food is just as important. “We’ve been at it since the beginning,” says Joan, who adds that the restaurant has had growing arrangements with local farmers since first opening. This time of year, you can find much more than local squash on their menus. At Jack of the Wood, look for local meats from Everett Farms (beef for burgers, shepherd’s pie, and pub steak) and Hickory Nut Gap Farms (pork for traditional bangers and mash), along with bison from Carolina Bison and rabbit from Imladris Farm. At Laughing Seed, expect local kale, mushrooms, frisee, potatoes, tempeh, peppers, cheeses and more.
About four years ago, the Eckerts started their own three-acre farm in Barnardsville to supply what their restaurants sourced from local farmers. They hope to produce more veggies on the farm in the future, as well as continue to support more area farmers. Says Joan, “The variety and quality of products produced in and around Asheville is a chef’s dream come true.”
For a complete list of participating Get Local restaurants, visit the Get Local page of asapconnections.org. For more information about Red June’s Homegrown Tour, visit redjunemusic.com. The band is in the midst of a grassroots fundraising campaign through Kickstarter to fund their next record. A portion of proceeds from CD sales on this tour benefitted ASAP. The group hopes to share proceeds from their next album with another nonprofit organization.
— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Contact her at email@example.com.