Year in review: Notable Asheville food and drink events

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: Food historian and award-winning author Michael Twitty visited Western North Carolina in early September to lead discussions on Southern culture, cuisine and culinary justice. Photo by Bret Hartman TED

When it comes to food and beverages, Asheville is one event-full little city. It’s staggering the number of pop-ups, fundraisers, cookbook launches, workshops, grand openings, festivals and competitions that occur in this town in any given week. Here are five noteworthy happenings from 2018.

Michael Twitty: In August, shortly after claiming two James Beard Foundation awards for his book The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, culinary historian Michael Twitty traveled to Western North Carolina to speak about culinary justice and the African roots of Southern cuisine at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville and UNC Asheville’s Farm-to-Table Dinner on the Quad and to deliver the keynote lecture for UNCA’s Greenfest. The events were sold out and standing-room-only.

Burton Street Harvest Festival: Organizers of the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens celebrated the West Asheville neighborhood’s agricultural history with the inaugural Burton Street Harvest Festival in September. Inspired by the Buncombe County Colored Agricultural Fair, which was launched and led by West Asheville businessman and community builder E.W. Pearson in the early 1900s, the friendly little festival featured a parade, gardening classes, food trucks and a food competition.

Baba Nahm pop-ups: There has been no shortage of exciting pop-up food and drink events this year (chef Dream Kasestatad‘s Pranom Thai street food dinners at District Wine Bar and Washington, D.C., chef Tom Cunanan‘s Bad Saint Filipino-themed food collaboration at Buxton Hall Barbecue, to name just a couple). But downtown Middle Eastern eatery Baba Nahm periodically mixed things up with two-week pop-ups that brought us everything from Middle Eastern breakfast dishes to a Turkish menu takeover to Mexican-Middle Eastern mashups (that February event was perhaps one of the only opportunities in recent Asheville history to grab a chicken mole pita with hummus and pico de gallo).

GO Kitchen Ready Showcase Dinners: At the end of each 15-week instructional cycle, the Green Opportunities Kitchen Ready culinary program for low-income adults highlights its accomplishments with a community showcase dinner at the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center on Livingston Street. The three-course, donation-based meals, which are now under the direction of new Kitchen Ready program manager (and vegan chef) Hayette Bouras, not only help raise money to support the program but also offer a unique and fun dining-out experience for guests. Kitchen Ready also offers donation-based lunches and breakfasts. Visit greenopportunities.org for more information.

Taste of Asheville: With its 2018 event in November, the Asheville Independent Restaurants association’s annual Taste of Asheville celebrated 10 years and reminded guests why it has stood the test of time. It’s always a blast to stroll through The Venue being entertained by members of the Asheville Buskers Collective while chatting with chefs and stuffing one’s face with incredible food and drink samples from AIR’s member restaurants, breweries, bars, bakeries, etc. But this year’s event felt particularly vibrant, with a wider variety of drink offerings than in years past, thanks to the participation of newer AIR members, including Asheville Tea Co., Shanti Elixirs, Tima Tea, Oak and Grist Distilling Co. and others.

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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