As the sunny days of early autumn transition to a crisp November chill, many local tour companies, farms and restaurateurs have wrapped up their outdoor offerings, shifting their focus to the offseason work that demands attention. But while farm stands sit bare and seasonal ingredients disappear from menus, the period from late November through early spring provides lesser-known possibilities for savoring the season’s particular charms.
Those hosting family or friends during Thanksgiving weekend might want to consider the holiday offerings from Asheville Farm to Table Tours. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 23-25, participants can tour local farms in Buncombe County, Madison County or Fairview, depending on the day.
When asked what sets her recently launched business apart, Ann Stauss says, “I think the main thing is starting at the place you’re visiting and being able to eat that same food that same day.” Each tour lasts four to 5 1/2 hours and combines visits to at least three local farms with a prepared meal featuring produce or goods from each of them. “The biggest thrill has been seeing people sit down and eat things they’ve just seen growing at the different places,” Stauss says. “People have been really excited and happy about that.”
Many clients, continues Stauss, “have been very surprised with how thrilled they are to experience the source. I’ve had people say, ‘I don’t really care about farms; they don’t really interest me,’ but by the end of the day they have a whole different perspective.”
Another benefit, she notes, is finding out where these items are regularly available, whether through a community supported agriculture program, a tailgate market or a store. Stauss also brings along empty coolers to hold purchases guests make during the tours.
Annie Louise Perkinson, co-manager of Flying Cloud Farm, says the tours “have been wonderful. It’s been really interesting to connect with people from all different walks of life and all different places who are interested in farming. I think when people have a connection to their food, they’re more inclined to support local farms.”
Victor Chiarizia of Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery agrees, saying Stauss is “doing a good job of bringing a diverse crowd of people through, and they really appreciate learning about cheese. We show them how we make the cheese, give them a nice sampling of cheeses, and then they can look in the cave to see what goes on in there. It’s a lot different doing it in an underground cave as opposed to just a cold room.”
Asheville Farm to Table Tours will continue offering some private outings throughout the fall and winter. Contact the business for more information (see box).
Stauss’ business is not the only one keeping the momentum going while waiting for the clocks to spring ahead once again. Creative Mountain Food Tours in Black Mountain will maintain its schedule throughout the winter months, encouraging those seeking an especially festive holiday experience to join either the Thanksgiving weekend Ultimate Foodie Tour or an outing on Saturday, Dec. 3, which coincides with Holly Jolly weekend festivities in Black Mountain.
Eating Asheville walking food tours, meanwhile, will continue offering tours seven days a week. During two weeks of the holiday season, says founder Stephen Steidle, The High Roller tour “is packed to the brim with seasonal food and drink, giving the restaurants an opportunity to show off.”
No Taste Like Home will be running tours by request throughout the winter. The business is currently offering a holiday special on its gift certificates, which can be applied to a private winter tour or saved for use next spring, summer or fall. And finally, Asheville Food Tours’ 3 1/2-hour walking tours, available year-round, feature at least six tasting stops in downtown Asheville.
Food and drink have traditionally been defenses against the scourge of winter, and these local businesses offer diverse opportunities to explore Asheville’s extraordinary four-season food scene.