Asheville Food Tours: "The question we always get as bed-and-breakfast owners is 'Where do I go and what do I eat?'" says Chris Ortwein, who last month launched Asheville Food Tours. With the walking tours, he says, "We've answered both questions."
Ortwein's wife first proposed the culinary tour concept after reading a magazine article about similar programs. The couple, owners of A Bed of Roses B&B in Montford, toyed with the idea for nearly a year before coordinating with area restaurants to craft edible itineraries. Asheville Food Tours now offers walking tours five days a week, incorporating more than two dozen locally owned eateries. More than 80 people have already taken a tour, Ortwein reports.
"It really is pretty fun," he says. "I had a guest the other day say she felt like a judge on Iron Chef."
Asheville Food Tours offers one tour of Biltmore Village and two different downtown tours (there's no thematic difference between the two — Ortwein just couldn't squeeze so many restaurants into the two-and-one-half-hour timeframe). He explains how that particular tour unfolds: "We walk down to Stovetrotters and they give us an appetizer," Ortwein says. "The last time, they did little bits of pita bread and black bean hummus."
The tour-goers sit at Stovetrotters' kitchen bar, noshing and sipping water as they listen to a staff member talk about the restaurant. Then the group heads to Fig Bistro, where, Ortwein says, "They always do something different. Last time it was a very small ramekin of Vietnamese diced pork with a cabbage and carrot relish."
The tour group next crosses the street to Corner Kitchen, which serves up miniaturized portions of fried oysters and corn chowder. After stopping at Wayside Grill for artichoke dip and onion rings — "which are just awesome," Ortwein adds — the tour rolls into Rezaz, where they nibble on an antipasti platter.
"Then we give people a choice," Ortwein says. "They can go across the street to McDonald's or to Red Stag. That's a joke, of course."
The tour winds up at Red Stag, where Chef Adam Hayes typically re-portions something off the menu: Previous dishes have included calamari and mashed potatoes with elk.
At the end of the tour, Ortwein offers to make reservations for any guests wanting to return to one of the restaurants for dinner. Many of them do, especially since their punched tickets are good for a 10 percent discount. "We're starting in the cold wintry time of year to get all the footfalls and faux pas out of the way," Ortwein says.
The tour of Biltmore Village runs every Tuesday at 2 p.m.; downtown tours begin at 2 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Tickets are $25, with the price slated to rise to $39 on Apr. 1. For more information, or to make reservations, call 273-0365 or visit www.ashevillefoodtours.com.
City Bakery: 'Tis the season for City Bakery to get continental with its confections: Stollen — a German treat that's the last word in fruitcake — and a chocolate-chip-studded Milanese-style Panettone are both available now through New Year's. To place an order, call 252-4426 or 254-4289.